Speeches 2005-13 9
Distinguished Chief Rabbi,
Dear Friends, Shalom!
"My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my Saviour" (Ex 15,2): thus sang Moses with the Children of Israel when the Lord saved his people by enabling them to cross the sea. In the same way Isaiah sang: "God indeed is my Saviour; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my Saviour" (Is 12,2).
Your visit brings me great joy and spurs me to renew with you this same canticle of gratitude for the salvation obtained. The people of Israel have been released from the hands of enemies on various occasions, and in the centuries of anti-Semitism during the tragic moments of the Shoah, the hand of the Almighty sustained and guided them.
The special favour of the God of the Covenant has always accompanied them, giving them the strength to overcome trials. Your Jewish Community, which has been present in the City of Rome for more than 2,000 years, can also witness to this loving divine attention.
The Catholic Church is close and is a friend to you. Yes, we love you and we cannot but love you, because of the Fathers: through them you are very dear and beloved brothers to us (cf. Rom Rm 11,28). This reciprocal esteem and trust has continued to grow since the Second Vatican Council. Fraternal and cordial contacts continued to develop and were intensified throughout the Pontificate of my Venerable Predecessor, John Paul II.
In Christ we participate in the same heritage of the Fathers as you, to serve Almighty God "with one accord" (So 3,9), grafted onto the one holy trunk (cf. Is Is 6,13 Rm 11,16) of the People of God. This makes us Christians aware that, with you, we have the responsibility of cooperating for the good of all peoples, in justice and in peace, in truth and in freedom, in holiness and in love.
In light of this common mission, we cannot but denounce and battle with determination against the hatred and misunderstandings, injustices and violence that continue to sow anxieties in the hearts of men and women of good will. In this context, how can we not be grieved and concerned about the renewed demonstrations of anti-Semitism that are at times reported?
Distinguished Chief Rabbi, you were recently entrusted with the spiritual guidance of Rome's Jewish Community; you have taken on this responsibility enriched by your experience as a scholar and a doctor who has shared in the joys and sufferings of a great many people. I offer you my heartfelt good wishes for your mission, and I assure you of my own and my collaborators' cordial esteem and friendship.
Furthermore, there are so many urgent needs and challenges, in Rome and in the world, that prompt us to join our hands and hearts in practical initiatives of solidarity, of tzedek (justice) and tzedekah (charity). Together, we can collaborate in transmitting to the young generations the torch of the Decalogue and hope.
May the Eternal Father watch over you and the entire Jewish Community of Rome! On this special occasion, I make my own the prayer of Pope Clement I as I invoke the blessings of Heaven upon you all: "Give harmony and peace to all the inhabitants of the earth, just as you gave to our fathers when they devoutly called upon you in faith and in truth" (To the Corinthians 60, 4).
Dear Bishop Heikka,
Dear Bishop Wróbel,
Distinguished friends from Finland,
It is with great joy that I welcome you, the members of the ecumenical delegation from Finland, on the occasion of today’s celebration of the feast of Saint Henrik, your patron saint.
I am pleased to recall that for many years my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, welcomed with joy and gratitude the participants in the yearly pilgrimage to Rome which has become an expression of our close contacts and fruitful ecumenical dialogue. These visits are an occasion for further productive work, as well as for a deepening of the “spiritual ecumenism” (cf. Ut unum sint UUS 21) which prompts divided Christians to appreciate how much already unites them.
The present Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden builds upon the substantial accomplishment of the Joint Declaration on Justification. In the specific context of the Nordic countries, the Commission is continuing to study the achievements and practical implications of the Joint Declaration. In this way it seeks to address the still existing differences between Lutherans and Catholics concerning certain questions of faith and ecclesial life while maintaining fervent witness to the truth of the Gospel.
During these days of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are especially aware that unity is a grace, and that we need continually to ask the Lord for this gift. Our hope is secure in his promise: “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18,19-20).
Let us thank God for all that has been achieved so far in Catholic-Lutheran relations and let us pray that he may fill us with his Spirit who guides us towards the fullness of truth and love.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Students of the Almo Collegio Capranica,
I am pleased to greet you at this special Audience on the eve of the liturgical Memorial of St Agnes, your heavenly Patroness. I am meeting you for the first time after my election to the Chair of the Apostle Peter and I gladly make the most of this opportunity to address a cordial greeting to you all.
First of all, I would like to greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini and the other Prelates who make up the Episcopal Commission that directs your College; I greet the Rector, Mons. Ermenegildo Manicardi, and the other formation teachers; I greet you, dear young men who are training to exercise the priestly ministry. You are here at a very important period in your life, which is that of your formation, an appropriate time for human, cultural and spiritual growth.
Dear young men, the College's organization helps you to prepare yourselves in the best way for your future pastoral mission: prayer, recollection, study, community life and the support of the formation staff. You can benefit from the fact that your Seminary, rich in history, is integrated into the life of the Diocese of Rome, and the cultivation of its strong bond of fidelity to the Bishop of Rome has always been a commitment and the boast of the Capranica Family.
Moreover, the possibility of doing your theological studies in this City also affords you a special opportunity for growth and openness to the needs of the universal Church. May it be your concern in these years to make the most of every occasion to witness effectively to the Gospel among the people of our time.
To respond to the expectations of modern society and cooperate in the vast evangelizing action that involves all Christians, we need well-trained and courageous priests who are free from ambition and fear but convinced of the Gospel Truth, whose chief concern is to proclaim Christ and who are prepared to stoop down to suffering humanity in his Name, enabling everyone, particularly the poor and all who are in difficulty, to experience the comfort of God's love and the warmth of the ecclesial family.
As you well know, in addition to human maturity and persevering adherence to the revealed truth which is faithfully presented by the Church's Magisterium, this entails a serious commitment to personal holiness and the practice of the virtues, especially humility and charity; you must also foster communion with the various members of the People of God, so that in each one of you the awareness of being part of the one Body of Christ and members one of another (cf. Rom Rm 12,4-6) may grow.
To achieve this, dear friends, I ask you to keep your eyes fixed on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of faith (cf. He 12,2). Indeed, the greater your communion with him, the better able you will be to follow faithfully in his footsteps, so that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, your love for the Lord will develop in "love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3,14).
You have before your eyes the testimonies of zealous priests whom your "Almo" College has listed among its alumnae through the years, priests who contributed a wealth of knowledge and goodness to the Lord's Vineyard. Follow their example!
Dear friends, the Pope accompanies you with prayer, asking the Lord to comfort you and to fill you with abundant gifts. May St Agnes, who, at a young age, resisting flattery and threats, chose as her treasure the precious "pearl" of the Kingdom and loved Christ to the point of martyrdom, intercede for you. May the Virgin Mary obtain that you bear abundant fruits of good deeds, in praise of the Lord and for the good of Holy Church.
To seal these hopes, I impart with affection my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the entire Community of the Capranica, and I willingly extend it to all your loved ones.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The cosmic excursion in which Dante, in his "Divine Comedy", wishes to involve the reader, ends in front of the perennial Light that is God himself, before that Light which is at the same time "the love that moves the sun and the other stars" (Par. XXXIII, v. 145). Light and love are one and the same. They are the primordial creative powers that move the universe.
If these words in Dante's Paradiso betray the thought of Aristotle, who saw in the eros the power that moves the world, Dante nevertheless perceives something completely new and inconceivable for the Greek philosopher. Not only that the eternal Light is shown in three circles which Dante addresses using those terse verses familiar to us: "O everlasting Light, you dwell alone/In yourself, know yourself alone, and known/And knowing, love and smile upon yourself!" (Par. XXXIII, vv. 124-126).
As a matter of fact, even more overwhelming than this revelation of God as a trinitarian circle of knowledge and love, is the perception of a human face - the face of Jesus Christ - which, to Dante, appears in the central circle of the Light. God, infinite Light, whose immeasurable mystery the Greek philosopher perceived, this God has a human face and - we may add - a human heart.
This vision of Dante reveals, on the one hand, the continuity between Christian faith in God and the search developed by reason and by the world of religions; on the other, however, a novelty appears that surpasses all human research, the novelty that only God himself can reveal to us: the novelty of a love that moved God to take on a human face, even to take on flesh and blood, the entire human being.
The eros of God is not only a primordial cosmic power; it is love that created man and that bows down over him, as the Good Samaritan bent down to the wounded and robbed man, lying on the side of the road that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Today, the word "love" is so spoiled, worn out and abused that one almost fears to pronounce it. And yet, it is a fundamental word, an expression of the primordial reality. We cannot simply abandon it, but we must take it up again, purify it and bring it to its original splendour so that it can illumine our life and guide it on the right path.
This is the understanding that led me to choose "love" as the theme of my first Encyclical. I wanted to try to express for our time and our existence some of what Dante boldly summed up in his vision. He tells of a "sight" that "was altering" as he "gazed on" it and was being interiorly changed (cf. Par. XXXIII, vv. 112-114).
It is precisely this: faith becomes a vision-understanding that transforms us. It was my aim to shed light on the centrality of faith in God; in that God who took on a human face and heart.
Faith is not a theory that can be personalized or even set aside. It is something very concrete: it is the criteria that determines our lifestyle. In an epoch where hostility and greed have become superpowers, an epoch where we support the abuse of religion to the point of deifying hatred, neutral rationality alone cannot protect us. We need the living God, who loved us even to death. And so, in this Encyclical, the themes "God", "Christ" and "Love" are fused together as the central guide of Christian faith. I wanted to reveal the humanity of faith, of which eros is a part; the "yes" of man to his bodiliness created by God, a "yes" that in an indissoluble matrimony between man and woman finds its form rooted in creation.
And here it also happens that the eros is transformed into agape: that love for the other which is no longer self-seeking but becomes concern for the other, ready to sacrifice for him or her and also open to the gift of a new human life.
Christian agape, love of neighbour in the following of Christ, is nothing foreign to, situated alongside of or even against the eros; on the contrary, in the sacrifice that Christ made of himself for man he discovered a new dimension which, in the history of charitable dedication of Christians to the poor and suffering, it has developed all the more.
A first reading of the Encyclical could possibly give the impression that it is divided into two parts that are not very connected: a first part, theoretical, which speaks about the essence of love, and a second, which speaks of ecclesial charity and charitable organizations.
I was particularly interested, however, in the unity of the two themes that are well understood only if seen as a whole. From the beginning it was necessary to speak of the essence of love as it is presented to us in the light of biblical testimony. Starting from the Christian image of God, it was necessary to show how man is created for love and how this love, which initially appears above all as the eros between man and woman, must then be interiorly transformed into agape, into gift of self to the other; and this, precisely to respond to the true nature of the eros.
On this basis, then, the essence of the love of God and neighbour as described in the Bible is shown to be the centre of Christian existence, the result of faith.
Subsequently, however, in the second part it became necessary to stress that the totally personal act of agape can never remain as something isolated, but must instead become also an essential act of the Church as community: meaning that it also requires an institutional form which is expressed in the communal working of the Church.
The ecclesial organization of charity is not a form of social assistance that is casually added to the Church's reality, an initiative that could also be left to others. Instead, it is part of the nature of the Church.
As the divine Logos corresponds to the human announcement, the word of faith, so must the Agape, who is God, correspond to the agape of the Church, her charitable activity. This activity, beyond the first very concrete meaning of helping one's neighbour, also essentially means that of communicating to others God's love, which we ourselves have received. It must make the living God in some way visible.
In charitable organization, God and Christ must not be foreign words; in reality, they indicate the original source of ecclesial charity. The strength of Caritas depends on the strength of the faith of all the members and collaborators.
The sight of a suffering human being touches our heart. But charitable commitment has a meaning that goes well beyond simple philanthropy. It is God himself who moves us interiorly to relieve misery. And so, after all, it is he himself whom we bring to the suffering world.
The more consciously and clearly we bring him as a gift, the more effectively will our love change the world and reawaken hope: a hope that goes beyond death. And only in this way is it true hope for man.
I hope that the Lord will bless your Symposium.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you with joy and I thank you for coming. I greet each one of you and through you I greet the Bishops' Conferences, Communities and Ecumenical Institutions of Europe. I extend a special greeting to the Presidents of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and of the Conference of European Churches and I thank them for expressing your fraternal sentiments.
Your visit is a further opportunity to shed light on the ties of communion that bind us in Christ and to renew our desire to work together to achieve full unity as soon as possible.
I am especially pleased to meet you once again today, after taking part yesterday in the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in St Paul's Basilica. You have desired to set out on the European ecumenical pilgrimage, which will culminate in the meeting at Sìbiu, Romania, in September 2007, from this very spot: Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul preached and were martyred.
This is all the more significant because the Apostles first proclaimed to us that Gospel which we are called as Christians to proclaim and witness to in Europe today.
In order to make this proclamation more effective, we wish to continue our courageous journey in search of full communion. The theme you have chosen for this spiritual programme - "The light of Christ enlightens all: The hope of renewal and unity in Europe" - demonstrates that this is Europe's true priority: to work to make Christ's light radiate and illuminate with renewed energy the steps of the European Continent at the beginning of the new Millennium.
I hope that Christ's light will illuminate every stage of this pilgrimage and that the next European Ecumenical Assembly will help make the Christians of our countries more aware of their duty to witness to the faith in today's cultural context, often marked by relativism and indifference. This is an indispensable service to offer to the European Community which has extended its frontiers in recent years.
Indeed, for the success of the unification process on which it has embarked, Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots, making room for the ethical values that are part of its vast, consolidated spiritual heritage. As disciples of Christ, it is our lot to help Europe become aware of this special responsibility in connection with its peoples. Only if we have the courage and determination, however, to take the path of reconciliation and unity will our Christian presence be incisive and enlightening.
The question that my beloved Predecessor John Paul II asked himself in his Homily at the Ecumenical Celebration for the First Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops on 7 December 1991 is alive in my mind: "In a Europe which is proceeding towards political unity can we accept that the very Church of Christ is a factor of division and discord? Would this not be one of the greatest scandals of our time?" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 9 December 1991, n. 6, PP 1-2).
How important it is to find in Christ the light to make headway on the path to unity! This effort is demanded of us all, dear representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Europe, because we all have a specific responsibility for the ecumenical progress of Christians on our Continent and in the rest of the world.
After the fall of the Wall that divided the countries of East and West in Europe, the encounter between peoples is easier; there are more opportunities to increase our reciprocal knowledge and esteem with an enriching mutual exchange of gifts; and we feel the need to join forces to face the great challenges of the present day, starting with those of modernity and secularization.
Experience amply shows that sincere, brotherly dialogue generates trust, eliminates fear and preconceived notions, dissolves difficulties and opens people to serene and constructive comparison.
Dear friends, for my part I renew here the determination I expressed at the beginning of my Pontificate to take on as a priority commitment and to spare no effort in the task of rebuilding the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers.
I thank you again for your welcome visit and I ask God to accompany with his Spirit your preparations for the next European Ecumenical Assembly in Sìbiu.
May the Lord bless your families, Communities and Churches, and all those in every region of Europe who proclaim themselves to be disciples of Christ.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am pleased to offer you my fraternal greetings at the time when you are making your visit ad limina Apostolorum. In coming to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome and thereby with the entire Episcopal College, you wish to show your attachment, and that of all your faithful, to the Successor of Peter. I hope that your common prayer at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and your meetings with the Roman Curia will bring you joy and comfort in your ministry and give you new enthusiasm.
I greet with affection the Pastors and faithful of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Kinshasa, Mbandaka-Bikoro and Kananga, in which you are responsible for building up the Body of Christ and guiding the People of God. At a time when Catholics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo along with all people of good will are preparing to live events important to their Nation's future, I would like to express my spiritual closeness to you, raising to the Lord a fervent prayer that they may persevere with firm hope in building peace and brotherhood!
In recent years your Country has lived through lethal conflicts leaving deep scars in peoples' memories. During this tragedy that especially affected the eastern part of your Country, you did not fail to deplore the extortions committed by using strongly-worded messages, calling on local leaders to demonstrate responsibility and courage so that the peoples might live in peace and security.
I encourage the Bishops' Conference to make a unanimous and daring effort to remain vigilant in order to guide the progress underway.
Important periods of ecclesial life have marked these years. You recalled, Your Eminence, the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation. You also mentioned the year 2005, in which the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa was celebrated. In convoking this Assembly, Pope John Paul II desired to foster an organic pastoral solidarity throughout the African Continent, so that the Church might bring a credible message of faith, hope and charity to all people of good will for a new missionary impetus in the particular Churches.
At a time when some Dioceses are celebrating the centenary of their evangelization, I hope that each one of you will make the effort to stress the centrality of the Gospel and in so doing, the pastoral consequences for the life of the local communities, in order to renew the apostolic zeal of pastors and faithful so that moral, spiritual and material reconstruction will unite communities in a single family, as a sign of brotherhood for your contemporaries.
The Church carries out her prophetic mission of proclaiming the Gospel with courage and enthusiasm, paying ever greater attention to the call of the Spirit and in ever closer intimacy with Christ. This mission, to which the Risen Lord calls his disciples who cannot shirk it, is yours in a special way, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, because "the Bishop's work of evangelization, aimed at leading men and women to faith or to strengthening the faith within them, is an outstanding manifestation of his spiritual fatherhood" (Pastores Gregis, ).
I therefore encourage you, by your example and the transparency of your life closely united to Christ, to proclaim Christ's Gospel tirelessly and to allow yourselves to be renewed by him, remembering that the Church lives on the Gospel, never ceasing to find in it directions for her journey.
Only if each one of the faithful allows his or her personal and community life to be joined to the Word of Christ, who asks for a personal and adult response of faith through authentic and lasting conversion with a view to social fruitfulness and brotherhood among all, can the Gospel profoundly illumine their consciences and transform cultures from within. May your charity, humility and simplicity of life also be a stimulating witness for your priests and faithful, so that they may all progress in truth on the path of holiness.
You emphasize the need to bring about an in-depth evangelization of the faithful. The living Ecclesial Communities, present in every corner of your Dioceses, clearly reflect this local evangelization; it makes the faithful ever more mature in their faith, in a spirit of evangelical brotherhood which encourages all of them to try to think together about the various aspects of ecclesial life, especially prayer, evangelization, attention to the poorest people and the self-funding of parishes.
These communities are also a valuable defence against the attack of the sects, which exploit the gullibility of the faithful and lead them astray by proposing a false vision of salvation and of the
In this perspective I encourage you to be extremely careful about the quality of the continuing formation of community leaders, especially catechists, whose devotion and ecclesial spirit I praise, and to ensure that they possess the spiritual, intellectual and material conditions that enable them to carry out as well as possible their mission under their Pastors' responsibility.
Be very careful also that these living Ecclesial Communities are truly missionary, not only eager to welcome Christ's Gospel, but also to bear witness to it to others. Nourished by Christ's Word and by the Sacraments of the Church, the faithful will find the necessary joy and strength for a courageous witness of Christian hope.
Especially in these times which are particularly crucial for your Country, may you remind the lay faithful of the urgent need for them to take on the renewal of the temporal order, calling them "to bring to bear upon the social fabric an influence aimed at changing not only ways of thinking but also the very structures of society, so that they will better reflect God's plan for the human family" (Ecclesia in Africa, ).
My thoughts turn affectionately to all your priests, diocesan priests and those who belong to religious institutes, collaborators of the order of Bishops established by Christ as ministers at the service of the People of God and all people.
I am aware of the difficult conditions in which many of them exercise their mission. I thank them for their often heroic service with a view to the spiritual growth of their communities. Show them your closeness by your permanent presence in your Dioceses. Also develop your capacity for trusting dialogue with them, making yourselves attentive to their human, intellectual and spiritual growth, so that, through the search for holiness in the exercise of their ministry itself, they may be authentic educators in the faith and models of charity for the faithful.
It is also your task to urge your priests to strive for excellence in their spiritual and moral life. In particular, you should remind them of the unique bond that links the priest to Christ. Its depth and vitality are expressed by priestly celibacy lived in perfect chastity. You should also see to their continuing formation so that they may penetrate ever more deeply into the mystery of Christ. May they enlighten the conscience of the faithful and build solid missionary communities rooted in and centred on the Eucharist, at which they preside in Christ's Name. "All priests share with the Bishops the one identical priesthood and ministry of Christ. Consequently, the very unity of their consecration and mission requires their hierarchical union with the order of Bishops" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, PO 7).
In this perspective, I also encourage you to develop increasingly the bonds of communion in the heart of your diocesan presbyterate. As you pointed out in your quinquennial reports, long drawn out conflicts have sometimes had a negative effect on the unity of this presbyterate, encouraging the development of tribalism and power struggles that can be disastrous for building up the Body of Christ and are sources of confusion for the faithful.
I urge each one to rediscover that deep priestly brotherhood which is proper to ordained ministers, in order to achieve the unity that attracts people to Christ. Encourage your priests to help one another to practise fraternal charity, proposing to them in particular certain forms of community life that will help them grow together in holiness, faithful to their vocation and mission and in full communion with you.
It is your task to pay constant attention to the quality of the formation of future priests. I give thanks with you for the generosity of many young men who, having heard Christ's call to serve him as priests in the Church, have been admitted to the seminaries to continue their discernment.
However, it is important - it is a pastoral requirement for the Bishop, the first representative of Christ in priestly formation - that the Church exercise increasingly her grave responsibility in the discernment and guidance of priestly vocations.
This is especially true in the choice of formation teachers, whose demanding work I take this opportunity to praise. Under the rector's authority, the seminary community is built up around them. May their human and spiritual maturity, their love for the Church and their pastoral wisdom help them carry out with justice and dependability the beautiful mission of ascertaining the spiritual, human and intellectual capacities of priesthood candidates.
To conclude, I make my own the remarks through which the Synod Fathers very rightly conveyed what they felt should be fundamental attitudes to be acquired for a fruitful priestly ministry: "There is need to form future priests in the true cultural values of their country, in a sense of honesty, responsibility and integrity... in such a manner that they will [be]... solidly spiritual, ready to serve, dedicated to evangelization, capable of administering the goods of the Church efficiently and openly, and of living a simple life as befits their milieu" (Ecclesia in Africa, ).
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of our meeting I invite you to hope. The Good News has been proclaimed in your Land for more than a century.
I thank the Lord for the generous work of all the agents of evangelization, including numerous missionaries who made the implantation and growth of your Church possible. I ask you today to continue courageously the evangelization that your predecessors began.
May God's Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo never lose the joy of believing and of making known the Gospel of Christ the Saviour! May your communities, sustained by the witnesses of faith in your Country, especially Bl. Marie Clémentine Anwarite Nengapeta and Bl. Isidore Bakanja, be the prophetic signs of a humanity renewed by Christ, a humanity set free from resentment and fear.
As I entrust you to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, I very gladly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the priests, men and women religious, catechists and faithful of your Dioceses.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Members of the ACLI,
We are meeting today on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Italian Christian Workers' Associations. I greet President Luigi Bobba and warmly thank him for his courteous words that truly touched me; I greet the other leaders and each one of you. I offer a special greeting to the Bishops and priests who have accompanied you and who are concerned with your spiritual formation.
The birth of your sodality is due to the far-sighted intuition of Pope Pius XII of venerable memory. He desired to form a visible and effective presence of Italian Catholics in the world of work and availed himself of the precious collaboration of Giovanni Battista Montini, then Substitute of the Secretariat of State.
Ten years later, on 1 May 1955, the same Pontiff established the Feast of St Joseph the Worker to point out to all the world's workers the way to personal sanctification through work, and thereby to restore the perspective of authentic humanization to the drudgery of daily life.
Today too, the question of work, the focus of rapid and complex changes, never ceases to call the human conscience into question and requires that workers do not lose sight of the basic principle that must guide every practical decision: the good of all human beings and of the whole of society.
Within this basic fidelity to God's original plan, I would like here to re-read briefly, with you and for you, the three "orders" or "fidelities" which in the past you have been committed to embodying in your multiform activity.
The first fidelity that the ACLI are called to live is fidelity to workers. The person is the "measure of the dignity of work" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 271). For this reason, the Magisterium has always recalled the human dimension of the activity of work and has redirected it to its true aim, without forgetting that the biblical teaching on work culminates in the commandment to rest. To require, therefore, that Sunday should not be equated to all other days of the week is a civilized decision.
Other priorities derive from the primacy of the ethical value of human labour: of the person over work (cf. Laborem Exercens LE 12), of work over capital (ibid.), of the universal destination of goods over the right to possess private property (ibid., n. 14), in short, the priority of being over having (ibid., n. 20).
This hierarchy of priorities shows clearly that the work environment is fully part of the anthropological issue.
Today, a new and unheard of implication of the social question connected with the protection of life is emerging in this area. We live in a time in which science and technology offer extraordinary possibilities for improving everyone's existence. But a distorted use of this power can seriously and irreparably threaten the destiny of life itself.
Thus, the teaching of beloved John Paul II, who asked us to see life as the new frontier of the social question (cf. Evangelium Vitae, EV 20), should be reasserted.
The protection of life from its conception until its natural end and wherever it is threatened, offended or trampled upon, is the first duty in which an authentic ethic of responsibility is expressed that should be consistently extended to all other forms of poverty, injustice and exclusion.
The second "fidelity" I would like to recommend to you is - in conformity with the spirit of your Founding Fathers - fidelity to democracy, which alone can guarantee equality and rights to everyone.
Indeed, there is a sort of reciprocal dependence between democracy and justice that impels everyone to work responsibly to safeguard each person's rights, especially those of the weak and marginalized.
This being said, it should not be forgotten that the search for truth is at the same time the condition for the possibility of a real and not only apparent democracy: "As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Centesimus Annus CA 46).
From here comes the invitation to work, to increase consensus around a framework of shared references, for otherwise the appeal to democracy risks becoming a mere procedural formality that perpetuates differences and exacerbates problems.
The third task is fidelity to the Church. Only cordial and passionate adherence to the journey of the Church will guarantee that necessary identity which can make itself present in every social milieu of the world without losing the savour and scent of the Gospel.
It is not by accident that John Paul II addressed these words to you on 1 May 1995: "The Gospel alone renews the ACLI"; they still mark out the principal route for your Association, since they encourage you to put the Word of God at the centre of your life and to see evangelization as an integral part of your mission.
The presence, then, of priests as spiritual guides helps you make the most of your relationship with the local Church and strengthens your commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
As associated Christian lay people and workers, always take pains with the formation of your members and leaders, with a view to the special service to which you are called. As witnesses of the Gospel and weavers of fraternal bonds, be present courageously in the crucial areas of social life.
Dear friends, the main theme of your 60th anniversary celebration was the reinterpretation of these historical "fidelities", doing justice to the fourth task with which Venerable John Paul II urged you to "extend the bounds of your social action" (Address to the ACLI, 27 April 2002; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 12 June, n. 4, p. 11).
May this commitment to the future of humanity always be enlivened by Christian hope. In this way you too, as witnesses of the Risen Jesus, Hope of the world, will help to impress new dynamism upon the great tradition of the Italian Christian Workers' Associations and be able to cooperate under the action of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.
May God accompany you and the Blessed Virgin protect you, your families and all your projects. I bless you with affection, as I assure you of my special remembrance in prayer.
Distinguished Prelate Auditors,
Officials and Collaborators of the
Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota,
Almost a year has passed since your Tribunal's last meeting with my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II. It was the last in a long series of meetings. Of the great legacy of canon law that he has also bequeathed to us, I would like in particular to focus on the Instruction Dignitas Connubii, on the procedures to follow in handling causes of the nullity of marriage. It was intended to set out a sort of vademecum which not only contains the respective norms in force on this subject but enriches them with further, relevant measures necessary for their correct application.
The greatest contribution of this Instruction, which I hope will be applied in its entirety by those who work in the ecclesiastical tribunals, consists in pointing out, in the causes of matrimonial nullity, the extent and manner in which to apply the norms contained in the canons concerning ordinary contentious judgment, as well as the observance of the special norms dictated for causes on the state of persons and for the public good.
As you well know, the attention dedicated to trials of the nullity of marriage increasingly transcends the context of experts. In fact, for many of the faithful, ecclesiastical sentences in this sector bear upon whether or not they may receive Eucharistic Communion.
It is this very aspect, so crucial from the viewpoint of Christian life, which explains why the subject of the nullity of marriage arose again and again at the recent Synod on the Eucharist. It might seem at first glance that there is a great divergence between the pastoral concern shown during the Synod's work and the spirit of the collection of juridical norms in Dignitas Connubii, almost to the point of their being in opposition.
On the one hand, it would appear that the Synod Fathers were asking the ecclesiastical tribunals to strive to ensure that members of the faithful who are not canonically married regularize their marital situation as soon as possible and return to the Eucharistic Banquet.
On the other, canonical legislation and the recent Instruction would seem instead to limit this pastoral thrust, as though the main concern were rather to proceed with the foreseen juridical formalities at the risk of forgetting the pastoral aim of the process.
This approach conceals a false opposition between law and pastoral ministry in general. Here, I do not intend to go deeply into this issue which John Paul II already treated on several occasions, especially in his Address to the Roman Rota in 1990 (cf. 18 January 1990; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, [ORE], 29 January 1990, p. 6).
At this first meeting with you, I prefer to concentrate on love for the truth, which is the fundamental meeting point between canon law and pastoral ministry. With this affirmation, moreover, I associate myself in spirit with precisely what my venerable Predecessor said to you in his Address last year (29 January 2005; ORE, 2 February, p. 3).
The canonical proceedings for the nullity of marriage are essentially a means of ascertaining the truth about the conjugal bond. Thus, their constitutive aim is not to complicate the life of the faithful uselessly, nor far less to exacerbate their litigation, but rather to render a service to the truth.
Moreover, the institution of a trial in general is not in itself a means of satisfying any kind of interest but rather a qualified instrument to comply with the duty of justice to give each person what he or she deserves.
Precisely in its essential structure, the trial is instituted in the name of justice and peace. In fact, the purpose of the proceedings is the declaration of the truth by an impartial third party, after the parties have been given equal opportunities to support their arguments and proof with adequate room for discussion. This exchange of opinions is normally necessary if the judge is to discover the truth, and consequently, to give the case a just verdict. Every system of trial must therefore endeavour to guarantee the objectivity, speed and efficacy of the judges' decisions.
In this area too, the relationship between faith and reason is of fundamental importance. If the case corresponds with right reason, the fact that the Church has recourse to legal proceedings to resolve interecclesial matters of a juridical kind cannot come as a surprise. A tradition has thus taken shape which is now centuries old and has been preserved in our day in ecclesiastical tribunals throughout the world.
It is well to keep in mind, moreover, that in the age of classical Medieval law, canon law made an important contribution to perfecting the institutional structure of the trial itself.
Its application in the Church concerns first and foremost cases in which, since the matter remains to be resolved, the parties could reach an agreement that would settle their litigation but for various reasons this does not happen.
In seeking to determine what is right, not only does recourse to proceedings not aim to exacerbate conflicts, but it seeks to make them more humane by finding objectively adequate solutions to the requirements of justice.
Of course, this solution on its own does not suffice, for people need love, but when it is inevitable, it is an important step in the right direction.
Indeed, trials may also revolve around matters whose settlement is beyond the competence of the parties involved since they concern the rights of the entire Ecclesial Community. The process of declaring the nullity of a marriage fits precisely into this context: in fact, in its twofold natural and sacramental dimension, marriage is not a good that spouses can dispose of nor, given its social and public nature, can any kind of self-declaration be conjectured.
At this point the second observation spontaneously arises: no trial is against the other party, as though it were a question of inflicting unjust damage. The purpose is not to take a good away from anyone but rather to establish and protect the possession of goods by people and institutions.
In addition to this point, valid in every trial, there is another, more specific point in the hypothesis of matrimonial nullity. Here, the parties are not contending for some possession that must be attributed to one or the other. The trial's aim is rather to declare the truth about the validity or invalidity of an actual marriage, in other words, about a reality that establishes the institution of the family and deeply concerns the Church and civil society.
Consequently, it can be said that in this type of trial the Church herself is the one to whom the request for the declaration is addressed. Given the natural presumption of the validity of a marriage that has been formally contracted, my Predecessor, Benedict XIV, an outstanding canon lawyer, conceived of and made obligatory in such proceedings the participation of the defender of the bond at the said trial (cf. Apostolic Constitution Dei Miseratione, 3 November 1741). Thus, the dialectic of the proceedings whose aim was to ascertain the truth was better guaranteed.
Just as the dialectic of the proceedings leads us to understand the criterion of the search for the truth, so it can help us grasp the other aspect of the question: its pastoral value, which cannot be separated from love for the truth.
Indeed, pastoral love can sometimes be contaminated by complacent attitudes towards the parties. Such attitudes can seem pastoral, but in fact they do not correspond with the good of the parties and of the Ecclesial Community itself; by avoiding confrontation with the truth that saves, they can even turn out to be counterproductive with regard to each person's saving encounter with Christ.
The principle of the indissolubility of marriage forcefully reaffirmed here by John Paul II (cf. Addresses: 21 January 2000, in ORE, 26 January 2000, p. 1; 28 January 2002, in ibid., 6 February 2002, p. 6) pertains to the integrity of the Christian mystery.
Today, unfortunately, we may observe that this truth is sometimes obscured in the consciences of Christians and of people of good will. For this very reason, the service that can be offered to the faithful and to non-Christian spouses in difficulty is deceptive: it reinforces in them, if only implicitly, the tendency to forget the indissolubility of their union.
Thus, the possible intervention of the ecclesiastical institution in causes of nullity risks merely registering a failure.
However, the truth sought in processes of the nullity of marriage is not an abstract truth, cut off from the good of the people involved. It is a truth integrated in the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful. It is very important, therefore, that the declaration of the truth is reached in reasonable time.
Divine Providence certainly knows how to draw good from evil, even when the ecclesiastical institutions neglect their duty or commit errors.
It is nonetheless a grave obligation to bring the Church's institutional action in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful. Besides, pastoral sensitivity must be directed to avoiding matrimonial nullity when the couple seeks to marry and to striving to help the spouses solve their possible problems and find the path to reconciliation. That same pastoral sensitivity to the real situations of individuals must nonetheless lead to safeguarding the truth and applying the norms prescribed to protect it during the trial.
I hope that these reflections will serve to help people understand better that love of the truth links the institution of canonical causes of the nullity of marriage with the authentic pastoral sense that must motivate these processes. With this key to interpretation, the Instruction Dignitas Connubii and the concerns expressed during the last Synod can be seen to converge.
Dear friends, the Ecclesial Community is deeply grateful to you for your discreet approach to the arduous and fascinating task of bringing about this harmony. With the sincere hope that your judicial activity will contribute to the good of all who turn to you and will encourage them in their personal encounter with the Truth that is Christ, I bless you with gratitude and affection.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I greet you with joy during your pilgrimage to the places where the Apostles Peter and Paul witnessed to Christ the Saviour to the point of martyrdom. I warmly hope that your Meetings with the Pope and his collaborators, an expression of the communion of your local Churches with the See of Peter, will increase your apostolic dynamism at the service of the People of God entrusted to your care.
I thank you for everything you have told me at our Meetings. Please assure the members of your Dioceses of my spiritual closeness to them at this time when, together with all the inhabitants of the Country, they are asked to work for peace and reconciliation in the period subsequent to the war years which took a toll of millions, particularly in your region. May they be courageous champions of the dignity of every human being and daring witnesses of Christ's charity in order to build an increasingly just and fraternal society!
The commitment to peace is a challenge to the Bishop's evangelizing mission. Your quinquennial reports describe the difficult conditions in which you exercise your ministry. Past conflicts and continuing areas of insecurity are leaving deep wounds in the population, giving rise to weariness and despair.
During this year which your local Church has dedicated to Bl. Anwarite Nengapeta, I hope that the imperative of charity will spur you to become prophets of justice and peace yourselves, through the holiness of your lives and the missionary zeal that enlivens you.
Indeed, "for the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, n. 25).
I am delighted with the pastoral ministry that the priests, consecrated persons and various charitable agencies carry out locally in the living Ecclesial Communities, to share in the concern for charity in the service of the least, making themselves credible witnesses of the love Christ bears them.
Work for the unity of the People of God and do your utmost to create a people of brothers and sisters, assembled by Christ and sent out by him!
It is important that you pursue the demanding task of implanting the Gospel in your culture. You should respect the wealth of authentic African values but also purify them of all that might make them incompatible with the Gospel truth.
Furthermore, it is desirable that you restore the Sacrament of Pen-ance, through which God sets man free from sin, enabling him to be increasingly a leaven of reconciliation and peace in the Church and in society.
Priests and the faithful alike are called to rediscover the Eucharist as the centre of their existence, acquiring at that great school of peace a deep sense of their commitments and a powerful appeal to become promoters of dialogue and communion (cf. Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 27).
Building the Church, the Family of God, in your Country is as demanding a task as it is elsewhere, but I know the apostolic dynamism that enlivens you. It is fortunate that the National Bishops' Conference of the Congo has spared no effort through its multiple interventions to open up paths of reconciliation and brotherhood in hearts and consciences.
In this regard, it is to be hoped that the joint sensitization campaign carried out with the Leaders of other religious confessions to propose a civic education for all citizens will bear good fruit.
The Church is called to take part in this work, in her own place and in accordance with her own vocation. She is also called to make a specific contribution to the common good and to the consolidation of a State based on rights, showing her daily commitment to the material and spiritual well-being of all the Congolese.
For this reason, it is important for this to offer a specific formation to the Country's political leaders. A thorough examination of the rich heritage of the Church's social doctrine will enable them to reflect on their engagement in the service of the common good and to take stock of the moral requirements needed to set up just institutions at the service of the renewal of society.
If the Word of the Gospel is to be heard in every corner of the Country and the Church's teaching is to exercise a deep influence on consciences, mindsets and customs, the use of the media, especially radio and television, is proving more necessary than ever and should remain one of your constant concerns.
Also through these media the Church will be better able to carry out her prophetic ministry, and especially to limit the action of the sects that frequently use the new technologies to attract and confuse the faithful. The modern media make possible an educational activity enlivened by passion for the truth and also by an action that aims at defending the dignity of the human person and encouraging the authentic culture of your people (cf. Christifideles Laici, CL 44).
The evangelization of the family is a pastoral priority. The flow of refugees or displaced persons, the pandemic of AIDS but also the radical changes in contemporary society have broken up numerous families, undermining the family institution with the risk of weakening the very social fabric.
It is important at all levels of diocesan and social life to encourage Catholics to preserve and promote the fundamental values of the family. In this spirit, it is right to be attentive to the human and spiritual preparation of couples for marriage and to follow up the pastoral care of families, recalling the eminent dignity of Christian marriage, one and indissoluble, and proposing a solid conjugal spirituality so that families may grow in holiness.
The consecrated life is present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the rich diversity of its forms. I affectionately greet all the consecrated people; they are concerned to witness to Christ's love among their brethren.
I pay homage in particular to those who, despite the emergency, have chosen to stay with the tried peoples in order to provide them with the help, comfort and spiritual support they need. I ask all consecrated people, irreplaceable signs of the Kingdom that is coming, to bear a prophetic witness in the Church and in Congolese society, calling them especially, in perfect faithfulness to the evangelical counsels, to reject every temptation of withdrawal into self and to spread a real spirit of brotherhood among all.
Young people have great vitality; they are a real treasure for the Church and for the whole Country. However, they constitute a population that has been rendered fragile by an insecure future, by the experience of precariousness and by the distressing ravages caused by AIDS. It is your task to nourish their faith and hope by offering them a solid Christian formation.
One thinks in particular of the pastoral projects for the human and spiritual rehabilitation of street children and child soldiers.
I also appeal to the Catholic schools and to all who are concerned with the formation and education of youth to give them the means to grow in charity, to build a sense of duty and to develop mutual respect in the apprenticeship of dialogue and community service, so that they may be active evangelizers and contribute to the renewal of the social fabric.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of our Meeting, how can I omit to tell you once again of the well-grounded hope I share with you of seeing reconciliation and peace triumph in your Country and throughout the Great Lakes Region! May all those who preside over the future of the Nation join forces to act responsibly in order to achieve a lasting peace!
I also appeal to the International Community not to forget Africa, especially by pursuing courageous and determined action to consolidate your Country's political and economic stability.
Lastly, I urge your communities to undertake "an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace" (Message for World Day of Peace 2006, n. 16, 8 December 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 December, p. 7).
On returning to your Dioceses, take back to all your priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and lay faithful the affection of the Successor of Peter, who calls them to live the service of charity in their daily lives while being more and more united in Christ, and who imparts to them as well as to you a special Apostolic Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to meet the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the end of its Plenary Meeting, a Congregation over which I had the joy to preside for more than 20 years through the mandate of my Predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II.
Your faces also make me think of all those who collaborated with the Dicastery in those years: I remember them all with gratitude and affection. Indeed, I cannot but recall with a certain emotion the very intense and fruitful period which I spent with the Congregation, whose task is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the entire Catholic Church (cf. Pastor Bonus ).
Faith has a fundamental importance in the life of the Church, because the gift that God makes of himself in Revelation is fundamental and God's gift of himself is accepted through faith.
Here the importance of your Congregation comes to the fore. Through its service to the whole Church and to the Bishops in particular, as teachers of the faith and pastors, it is precisely called in a spirit of collegiality to encourage and to recall the centrality of the Catholic faith in its authentic expression.
Whenever, moreover, the perception of this centrality weakens, the fabric of ecclesial life loses its original brightness and wears thin: it degenerates into sterile activism or is reduced to political expediency with a worldly flavour.
If, instead, the truth of the faith is placed simply and decisively at the heart of Christian existence, human life is innovated and revived by a love that knows no rest or bounds, as I also had the opportunity to recall in my recent Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est.
Charity, like love that renews all things, moves from God's Heart to the Heart of Jesus Christ, and through his Spirit across the world. This love is born from the encounter with Christ in faith: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (Deus caritas est, ).
Jesus Christ is the Personified Truth who attracts the world to himself. The light that shines out from Jesus is the splendour of the truth. Every other truth is a fragment of the Truth that he is, and refers to him.
Jesus is the Pole Star of human freedom: without him it loses its sense of direction, for without the knowledge of the truth, freedom degenerates, becomes isolated and is reduced to sterile arbitration. With him, freedom is rediscovered, it is recognized to have been created for our good and is expressed in charitable actions and behaviour.
Therefore, Jesus gives men and women total familiarity with the truth and continuously invites them to live in it. It is truth offered as a reality that restores the human being and at the same time surpasses him and towers above him, as a Mystery that embraces and at the same time exceeds the impulse of his intelligence.
And nothing succeeds as well as love for the truth in impelling the human mind towards unexplored horizons. Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the truth, draws to himself the heart of each person, enlarges it and fills it with joy. Indeed, truth alone can take possession of the mind and make it rejoice to the full.
It is this joy that increases the dimensions of the human heart, lifting it anew from the narrowness of selfishness and rendering it capable of authentic love. It is the experience of this joy that moves and attracts the human person to free adoration, not to servile prostration but to bow with heartfelt respect before the Truth he has encountered.
Thus, service to the faith, which is a witness to the One who is the entire Truth, is also a service to joy, and this is the joy that Christ desires to spread in the world: it is the joy of faith in him, of truth that is communicated through him, of salvation that comes from him! It is this joy we feel in our hearts when we kneel with faith to worship Jesus!
This love for truth also inspires and directs the Christian approach to the contemporary world and the evangelizing commitment of the Church, topics which you have taken time to discuss at your Plenary Assembly.
The Church welcomes with joy the authentic breakthroughs of human knowledge and recognizes that evangelization also demands a proper grasp of the horizons and the challenges that modern knowledge is unfolding. In fact, the great progress of scientific knowledge that we saw during the last century has helped us understand the mystery of creation better and has profoundly marked the awareness of all peoples.
However, scientific advances have sometimes been so rapid as to make it very difficult to discern whether they are compatible with the truths about man and the world that God has revealed. At times, certain assertions of scientific knowledge have even been opposed to these truths. This may have given rise to a certain confusion among the faithful and may also have made the proclamation and acceptance of the Gospel difficult.
Consequently, every study that aims to deepen the knowledge of the truths discovered by reason is vitally important, in the certainty that there is no "competition of any kind between reason and faith" (Fides et Ratio, FR 17).
We must have no fears about facing this challenge: Jesus Christ is indeed the Lord of all creation and of all history. The believer knows well that "all things were created through him and for him... and in him all things hold together" (Col 1,16).
By continually deepening our knowledge of Christ, the centre of the cosmos and of history, we can show the men and women of our time that faith in him is important for humanity's future: indeed, it is the accomplishment of all that is authentically human. Only in this perspective will we be able to give convincing answers to the person who is searching.
This commitment is crucially important for the proclamation and transmission of the faith in the contemporary world. Today, in fact, the task of evangelizing is an urgent priority and demands equal commitment.
The dialogue between faith and reason, religion and science, does not only make it possible to show people of our time the reasonableness of faith in God as effectively and convincingly as possible, but also to demonstrate that the definitive fulfilment of every authentic human aspiration rests in Jesus Christ. In this regard, a serious evangelizing effort cannot ignore the questions that arise also from today's scientific and philosophical discoveries.
The desire for the truth is part of human nature itself. The whole of creation is an immense invitation to seek those responses that open human reason to the great response that it has always sought and awaited: "The truth of Christian Revelation, found in Jesus of Nazareth, enables all men and women to embrace the "mystery' of their own life. As absolute truth, it summons human beings to be open to the transcendent, while respecting both their autonomy as creatures and their freedom. At this point, the relationship between freedom and truth is complete, and we understand the full meaning of the Lord's words: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' (Jn 8,32)" (Fides et Ratio, FR 15).
In this the Congregation finds the motive for its commitment and the horizon of its service. Your service to the fullness of the faith is a service to the truth, hence, to joy, a joy that rises from the depths of the heart, that flows from those abysses of love that Christ opened with his Heart pierced on the Cross and that his Spirit pours out into the world with inexhaustible generosity. From this point of view, your doctrinal ministry can appropriately be defined as "pastoral".
Your service, in fact, is a service to the full diffusion of God's light in the world! May the light of faith, expressed in its fullness and integrity, always illumine your work and be the "star" that guides you and helps you to direct human hearts to Christ!
This is the weighty but fascinating task incumbent upon the Successor of Peter in his mission in which you are called to collaborate. Thank you for your work and for your service!
With these sentiments I impart my Blessing to you all.
Speeches 2005-13 9