Speeches 2005-13 55




Thursday, 9 November 2006

I would first like to thank you all for this meeting, which seems very important to me as an exercise of collegial affection, an expression of our common responsibility for the Church and for the Gospel in the world at this time. Thank you for everything!

I am sorry that because of other commitments, especially the ad limina visits - in these days it is the turn of the German Bishops - I was unable to be with you.

I would have really liked to hear the voice of the Swiss Bishops - but perhaps there will be other opportunities - and of course, also to hear the dialogue of the Roman Curia and the Swiss Bishops: in the Roman Curia too, the Holy Father always speaks as responsible for the whole Church.

Thank you, therefore, for this meeting, which it seems to me is a help to us all because it is an experience of the Church's unity as well as of the hope that accompanies us in all the difficulties that surround us.

In addition, I would like to ask you to excuse me for having come without a prepared text on the very first day; I had of course given it some thought, but I did not have the time to write. And so, once again now, I am presenting myself with this impoverishment, but it might be right also for a Pope to be poor in all senses at this time in the Church's history.

In any case, I am unable to offer you a grand Discourse now as would have been fitting after a meeting with these results.

I must say, in fact, that I had already read the summary of your discussions and I have listened to it just now with great attention: it seems a very well thought out and rich text. It truly responds to the essential questions that concern us, both for the unity of the Church as a whole and for the specific issues of the Church in Switzerland. It seems to me that it really plots the path for the years to come and demonstrates our common desire to serve the Lord. It is a very rich text.

In reading it, I thought: it would be somewhat absurd if I were now to start once again to treat the topics discussed thoroughly and intensely over the past three days. I see here the condensed and rich result of the work done; to add anything further to the individual points would, I think, be very difficult, partly because the result of the work is known to me but not the actual voices of those who spoke during the discussions.

I therefore thought that perhaps it would be right this evening, at the conclusion, to return once again to the important topics which occupy us and are, in short, the basis of all the details - even if obviously each detail is important.

In the Church, the institution is not merely an external structure while the Gospel is purely spiritual. In fact, the Gospel and the Institution are inseparable because the Gospel has a body, the Lord has a body in this time of ours. Consequently, issues that seem at first sight merely institutional are actually theological and central, because it is a matter of the realization and concretization of the Gospel in our time.

The best thing to do now, therefore, would be to stress once again the great perspectives within which the whole of our reflection takes place. Allow me with the indulgence and generosity of the members of the Roman Curia, to continue in German, because we have excellent interpreters who would otherwise be left idle.

I have thought of two specific themes of which I have already spoken and which I would now like to examine further.

Let us return, therefore, to the subject of "God". The words of St Ignatius spring to mind: "The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power (Epistula ad Romanos 3, 3). We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

In this perspective I would now like to continue by completing last Tuesday's reflections and to stress once again: what matters above all is to tend one's personal relationship with God, with that God who revealed himself to us in Christ.

Augustine repeatedly emphasized the two sides of the Christian concept of God: God is Logos and God is Love - to the point that he completely humbled himself, assuming a human body and finally, giving himself into our hands as bread. We must always keep in mind and help others to keep in mind these two aspects of the Christian conception of God.

God is Spiritus Creator, he is Logos, he is reason. And this is why our faith is something that has to do with reason, can be passed on through reason and has no cause to hide from reason, not even from the reason of our age. But precisely this eternal, immeasurable reason is not merely a mathematics of the universe and far less, some first cause that withdrew after producing the Big Bang.

This reason, on the contrary, has a heart such as to be able to renounce its own immensity and take flesh. And in that alone, to my mind, lies the ultimate, true greatness of our conception of God. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, he is not something that perhaps exists, but we know him and he knows us. And we can know him better and better if we keep up a dialogue with him.

This is why it is a fundamental task of pastoral care to teach people how to pray and how to learn to do so personally, better and better. Today, schools of prayer and prayer groups exist; it is obvious that people want them. Many seek meditation elsewhere because they think that they will not be able to find a spiritual dimension in Christianity.

We must show them once again not only that this spiritual dimension exists but that it is the source of all things. To this end, we must increase the number of these schools of prayer, for praying together, where it is possible to learn personal prayer in all its dimensions: as silent listening to God, as a listening that penetrates his Word, penetrates his silence, sounds the depths of his action in history and in one's own person; and to understand his language in one's life and then to learn to respond in prayer with the great prayers of the Psalms of the Old Testament and prayers of the New.

By ourselves, we do not possess words for God, but words have been given to us: the Holy Spirit himself has already formulated words of prayer for us; we can enter them, we can pray with them and thus subsequently, also learn personal prayer ever better; we can "learn" God and thus become sure of him even if he is silent - we can become joyful in God.

This intimate being with God, hence, the experience of God's presence, is what makes us, so to speak, experience ever anew the greatness of Christianity, and then also helps us to find our way through all the trivialities among which, of course, it must also be lived and - day after day, in suffering and loving, in joy and sorrow - put into practice.

And from this viewpoint one perceives, in my opinion, the significance of the Liturgy also as precisely a school of prayer, where the Lord himself teaches us to pray and where we pray together with the Church, both in humble, simple celebrations with only a few of the faithful and also in the feast of faith.

In various conversations, I have perceived now, once again at this very moment, on the one hand, how important for the faithful silence in their contact with God is, and on the other, the feast of faith, how important it is to be able to live festive celebration.

The world also has its feast days. Nietzsche actually said: We can only celebrate if God does not exist. But this is absurd: only if God exists and touches us can there be true festivity. And we know that these feasts of faith open people's hearts wide and create impressions that are helpful for the future. I saw once again during my Pastoral Visits to Germany, Poland and Spain that faith there is lived as a festive celebration and that it accompanies people and guides them.

In this context I would like to mention something else that struck me and made a lasting impression.
In St Thomas Aquinas' last work that remained unfinished, the Compendium Theologiae which he intended to structure simply according to the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the great Doctor began and partly developed his chapter on hope. In it he identified, so to speak, hope with prayer: the chapter on hope is at the same time the chapter on prayer.

Prayer is hope in action. And in fact, true reason is contained in prayer, which is why it is possible to hope: we can come into contact with the Lord of the world, he listens to us, and we can listen to him. This is what St Ignatius was alluding to and what I wanted to remind you of today, once again: ou peismones to ergon, alla megethous estin ho Christianismos (Ad Rom. 3, 3) - the truly great thing in Christianity, which does not dispense one from small, daily things but must not be concealed by them either, is this ability to come into contact with God.

The second thing that I have remembered in these very days concerns morals.

I often hear it said that people today have a longing for God, for spirituality, for religion, and are starting once again to see the Church as a possible conversation partner from which, in this regard, they can receive something. (There was a period in which this was basically sought only in other religions).

Awareness is growing: the Church especially conveys spiritual experience; she is like a tree where the birds can make their nests even if they want to fly away again later - but she is precisely also a place where one can settle for a certain time.

Instead, what people find more difficult is the morality that the Church proclaims. I have pondered on this - I have been pondering on it for a long time - and I see ever more clearly that in our age morality is, as it were, split in two.

Modern society not merely lacks morals but has "discovered" and demands another dimension of morality, which in the Church's proclamation in recent decades and even earlier perhaps has not been sufficiently presented. This dimension includes the great topics of peace, non-violence, justice for all, concern for the poor and respect for creation. They have become an ethical whole which, precisely as a political force, has great power and for many constitutes the substitution or succession of religion.

Instead of religion, seen as metaphysical and as something from above - perhaps also as something individualistic -, the great moral themes come into play as the essential which then confers dignity on man and engages him.

This is one aspect: this morality exists and it also fascinates young people, who work for peace, for non-violence, for justice, for the poor, for creation. And there are truly great moral themes that also belong, moreover, to the tradition of the Church. The means offered for their solution, however, are often very unilateral and not always credible, but we cannot dwell on this now. The important topics are present.

The other part of morality, often received controversially by politics, concerns life. One aspect of it is the commitment to life from conception to death, that is, its defence against abortion, against euthanasia, against the manipulation and man's self-authorization in order to dispose of life.

People often seek to justify these interventions with the seemingly great purpose of thereby serving the future generations, and it even appears moral to take human life into one's own hands and manipulate it.

However, on the other hand, the knowledge also exists that human life is a gift that demands our respect and love from the very first to its very last moments, also for the suffering, the disabled and the weak.

The morality of marriage and the family also fit into this context. Marriage is becoming, so to speak, ever more marginalized.

We are aware of the example of certain countries where legislation has been modified so that marriage is no longer defined as a bond between a man and a woman but a bond between persons; with this, obviously, the basic idea is destroyed and society from its roots becomes something quite different.

The awareness that sexuality, eros and marriage as a union between a man and a woman go together - "and they become one flesh" (Gn 2,24) - this knowledge is growing weaker and weaker; every type of bond seems entirely normal - they represent a sort of overall morality of non-discrimination and a form of freedom due to man.

Naturally, with this the indissolubility of marriage has become almost a utopian idea which many public figures seem precisely to contradict. So it is that even the family is gradually breaking up.
There are of course many explanations for the problem of the sharp decline in the birth rate, but certainly a decisive role is also played in this by the fact that people want to enjoy life, that they have little confidence in the future and that they feel the family is no longer viable as a lasting community in which future generations may grow up.

In these contexts, therefore, our proclamation clashes with an awareness, as it were, contrary to society and with a sort of anti-morality based on a conception of freedom seen as the faculty to choose autonomously with no pre-defined guidelines, as non-discrimination, hence, as the approval of every type of possibility.

Thus, it autonomously establishes itself as ethically correct, but the other awareness has not disappeared. It exists, and I believe we must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united.

Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice.

I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need to be able to "lose our own life". On the other hand, in this context of freely given love, we need to move forward towards ways of putting it into practice, whose foundation is always offered to us by the Decalogue, which we must interpret today with Christ and with the Church in a progressive and new way.

These, therefore, were the themes I thought I should and could elaborate. I thank you for your indulgence and your patience. Let us hope that the Lord will help us all on our journey!


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Welcome to the house of the Successor of Peter! In the joy of the faith, whose proclamation is our common service as Pastors, I welcome you at this meeting of the first group of German Bishops on the occasion of your ad limina visit. After my Visits to Germany for the World Youth Day in 2005 and more recently in September, during which I was able, if briefly, to meet many of you, I am pleased to welcome you here to take a look together at the situation of the Church in our Country.

It is not of course necessary for me to say it expressly: Catholics in the German Dioceses and in general all Christians in our Country are dear to my heart. I pray every day that God will bless the German People and everyone who lives in our Homeland. May the great love of God touch and transform the hearts of all!

I am grateful to be able, through the conversations with each one of you, not only to deepen our friendship and personal ties but also to learn much about the situations in your Dioceses. In the discourses with which we conclude our personal meetings, I would like to stress certain aspects of ecclesial life that are particularly important to me at this time in our history.

The Federal Republic of Germany shares with the whole of the Western world a culture marked by secularization, in which God is increasingly disappearing from the public conscience, in which the uniqueness of the figure of Christ is fading and the values formed by the tradition of the Church are becoming less and less effective.

Thus, even for the individual, faith is becoming increasingly difficult; plans of life and ways of living are ever more often determined by personal choice. This is the situation that both Church Pastors and lay faithful must face.

Many have thus succumbed to discouragement and resignation, attitudes that stand in the way of witnessing to Christ's liberating and saving Gospel.

Basically, is not Christianity only one of the many alternatives that aim to give life meaning? This is a question many people are asking themselves.

At the same time, however, as they face the frailty and transience of most of these proposals, many people look to the Christian message with questions and hope and expect convincing answers from us.

I believe that the Church in Germany should consider the above-mentioned situation to be a providential challenge and face it with courage. We Christians must not fear spiritual confrontation with a society whose ostentatious intellectual superiority conceals its perplexity before the final existential questions.

The answers the Church draws from the Gospel of the Logos made man have in fact proved effective as regards the thinking of the past two millennia, and their effectiveness endures.

Strengthened by this knowledge, we are able to account for the hope that is in us to all who ask us to explain it (cf. 1P 3,15).

This is also true in our relations with the faithful of other religions, especially with the many Muslims living in Germany whom we approach with respect and benevolence. Precisely these Muslims, who often observe their convictions and religious rites very seriously, have a right to receive our humble and sound testimony in favour of Jesus Christ.

To convey it convincingly, however, requires serious commitment. For this reason, in places with a large Muslim population, Catholic spokespersons should be available who have adequate knowledge both of languages and of the history of religion, which will enable them to enter into dialogue with Muslims. This dialogue, however, presupposes in the first place a sound knowledge of their own Catholic faith.

This brings us to touch on another very central topic: the teaching of religion in Catholic schools and the Cath-olic formation of adults. This area demands from Bishops new and special attention.

First of all, you must be concerned about the curricula for teaching religion, which must be inspired by the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that the Church's faith and customs are transmitted in the course of study in their entirety. In the past, the content of catechesis was often relegated to second place, as regards didactic methods.

An integral and clear presentation of the content of faith is a crucial element for the approval of textbooks for lessons on religion. Equal importance should be given to the teachers' faithfulness to the Church's faith and to their participation in the liturgical and pastoral life of the parishes or Ecclesial Communities in whose territory they work.

At Catholic schools, moreover, it is important that the introduction to the Catholic vision of the world and the practice of faith, as well as the integral Catholic formation of the personality be transmitted convincingly, not only during religion classes but indeed, throughout the school day - and not the least through the teachers' personal witness.

Equally important are the many institutions and activities in the area of adult formation. It is necessary here to pay special attention to the choice of themes and of formation staff so that the central content of the faith and the Christian view of life are not glossed over to give precedence to current issues or marginal problems.

In addition, the complete and faithful transmission of the faith at school and in adult formation definitely depends on the formation of priesthood candidates and of teachers of religion at the theological faculties and universities.

It can never be stressed enough that faithfulness to the Depositum fidei as presented by the Church's Magisterium is the premise par excellence for serious research and teaching. This faithfulness is also a requirement of intellectual honesty for anyone to whom the Church entrusts an academic teaching role.

Here Bishops, as ultimately responsible, are duty bound to give their "nihil obstat" only after thorough examination. Only a theological faculty that feels obliged to respect this principle can make an authentic contribution to spiritual exchanges within universities.

Venerable Confreres, may I be permitted also to speak about formation at the Major Seminaries? In its Decree Optatam Totius the Second Vatican Council set out important norms concerning this, not all of which, unfortunately, have been fully implemented.

This applies in particular to the implementation of the so-called "propadeutic course" prior to starting the actual course of study. Not only should it transmit a sound knowledge of the classical languages, required expressly for philosophical and theological studies, but also familiarity with the Catechism and with the Church's religious, liturgical and sacramental practices.

In the face of the increasing number of people concerned and of priesthood candidates who no longer have a traditional Catholic background, this introductory year is urgently necessary.

Furthermore, such a year would enable the student to achieve a clearer discernment of his priestly vocation.

Moreover, those in charge of priestly formation would have the opportunity to develop an idea of the candidate, his human maturity and his faith life.

On the other hand, the so-called "role-playing" with a group dynamic, self-knowledge groups and other psychological experiments are less suited to this purpose and tend rather to create confusion and uncertainty.

In this broader context, I would especially like to recommend to you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. It provides Catholic Germany with an excellent venue for a high-level academic confrontation, in the light of Catholic faith, with spiritual currents and problems, and for the formation of a spiritual elite who can face present and future challenges with a Gospel spirit.

Financial consolidation of the only Catholic University in Germany must be seen by all German Dioceses as a common commitment: in the future, it will no longer be possible for this University to be supported by the Bavarian Dioceses alone, although they will continue to have special responsibility for it.

Lastly, I would like once again to reflect on a problem that is as urgent as it is sensitive: the relationship between priests and lay people in carrying out the Church's mission. In our secular culture the importance of the active collaboration of lay people in the life of the Church is becoming ever clearer to us.

I would like to warmly thank all the lay people who, by virtue of the power of Baptism, offer the Church their lively support. Precisely because the active witness of lay people is so important, it is equally important not to confuse the special profiles of the respective roles.

Delivering the homily during Holy Mass is a task bound to the ordained ministry; when sufficient priests and deacons are present, it is their task to distribute Holy Communion.

Moreover, there is a constant request for lay people to carry out roles of pastoral guidance. In this regard, we cannot discuss questions connected to this in the light of pastoral convenience alone, for here it is a question of the truth of faith, that is to say, the sacramental and hierarchical structure that Jesus Christ desired for his Church. Since this is based on his will, just as the delegation of apostles relies on his mandate, these matters are exempt from human intervention.

The Sacrament of Orders alone authorizes those who receive it to speak and act in persona Christi. It is this, dear Confreres, that must be inculcated ever anew with great patience and wisdom, and the necessary conclusions drawn.

Dear Confreres in the Episcopate, the Church in Germany has deep spiritual roots and possesses exceptional means to promote the faith and support needy people, both at home and abroad. The number of committed faithful and the quality of their work for the good of the Church and society are truly remarkable.

Also useful in carrying out the Church's mission for the good of the people in Germany is the cooperation, on the whole good, between the State and the Church. To deal adequately with the challenges that derive from the relentless secularization process mentioned at the outset, the Church in Germany more than anything else must make the power and the beauty of the Catholic faith visible anew: to do so, she must grow in communion with Christ.

The unity of Bishops, clergy and laity with one another and with the universal Church, and especially with the Successor of Peter, is of fundamental importance in this task.

May the powerful intercession of Mary, Virgin and Mother of God - who possesses many marvellous shrines in our German Homeland -, as well as the intercession of St Boniface and of all our Country's saints, obtain for you and all the faithful the strength and perseverance to be able to continue with courage and trust the great work of authentic renewal of the life of faith, in faithful allegiance to the instructions of the universal Church.

I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you all as you carry out the tasks of your service as Pastors, and to all the faithful in Germany.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I rejoice to be here with you today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Institution, born from the insight of the then Mons. Domenico Tardini, and later directed by the late Cardinal Antonio Samorè and by our Cardinal Silvestrini, with the contribution of friends from the world of school, culture and work, and of both Italian and American benefactors.

I greet all of you, students, alumni, friends and all your families, and I thank you for your warm welcome. I greet in particular Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, President of the "Fondazione Sacra Famiglia di Nazareth"; I am grateful to him for his presentation of this educational and ecclesial institution to which he devotes so much thought and love.

I greet Prof. Angela Groppelli, Vice-President, a psychologist who has been doing her utmost for Villa Nazareth for more than 50 years, and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, together with the Bishops and priests who have lavished or are lavishing upon it the gifts of the spiritual life, as well as the members of the Council of the Foundation and of the lay Association "Comunità Domenico Tardini", with Pier Silverio Pozzi, Vice-President, and all the members.

Villa Nazareth is a promising work that continues to develop, thanks to the commitment of the students during their training period and then through the professional integration and the new families which come into being. It is the whole of this large family that I desire to greet in its entirety, with special fatherly affection.

Villa Nazareth, which in the past 60 years has accepted several generations of children and young people, proposes to enhance its students' intelligence with respect for personal freedom and oriented to viewing the service of others as an authentic expression of Christian love.

Villa Nazareth intends to teach its young people to make courageous decisions through an approach of openness to dialogue and with reference to reason, purified in the crucible of faith.

Faith, in fact, can offer perspectives of hope to every project that has human destiny at its core. Faith examines the invisible and is thus a friend of reason, which asks itself the essential questions from which it draws meaning for our earthly journey.

In this regard, the question which, according to Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles, the Deacon Philip asked the Ethiopian he met on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza: "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Ac 8,30), can be enlightening. The Ethiopian answered him: "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (ibid., v. 31).

Philip then spoke to him of Christ. Thus, the Ethiopian discovered the answer to his questions in the person of Christ, proclaimed in the prophet Isaiah's veiled words. It is important, therefore, that someone be beside those who are on their way and proclaim to them "the Good News of Jesus" (v. 35), as Philip did.

Sketched here is the "diakonia" [service] which Christian culture can carry out in helping those who are searching to discover the One who is concealed in the biblical passage, as well as in the events of every person's life. However, it should not be forgotten that the Lord said that he was given food, drink and hospitality, and that he was clothed and visited in every needy person (cf. Mt 25,31-46). Consequently, he is also "concealed" in these persons and events.

I know, dear friends, that you are accustomed to reflecting on these and other similar biblical texts. They are words that accompany your days.

By combining these images and advice, you can clearly understand how inseparable truth and love are. No culture can be satisfied with itself until it discovers that it must be attentive to the real and profound needs of the human being, every human being.

At Villa Nazareth, you are able to experience that living the Word of God to the full demands attentive listening and a generous and mature heart. The content of Jesus' Revelation is concrete, and a Christianly-inspired intellectual must always be ready to communicate it when he converses with those seeking solutions that can improve life and respond to the anxiety that assails every human heart.

It is necessary above all to show the deep correspondence that exists between the requests that emerge from reflection on human events and the divine Logos who "became flesh" and came "to dwell among us" (cf. Jn 1,14).

Thus, a fruitful convergence is established between the postulates of reason and the responses of Revelation, and it is precisely from here that a light shines forth and illuminates the path on which to guide one's own commitment.

In daily contact with Scripture and the Church's teachings, you mature and develop the human, professional and spiritual dimensions, and you can thus enter ever more deeply into the mystery of that creative Reason which continues to love the world and to speak with the freedom of creatures.

A Christian intellectual - and this is certainly what those who come from Villa Nazareth wish to be - must always foster his or her own wonder at this basic truth. It facilitates docile attachment to the Spirit of God, and at the same time impels one to serve others with ready willingness.

You can deduce the "style" of your commitment from something St Paul said to the Christian community living in Philippi: "Brethren, finally, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Ph 4,8).

It is precisely in this perspective that you can weave a fertile dialogue with culture and make your contribution to ensuring that many people find the answer in Jesus Christ. May you also feel stirred by the Spirit of Jesus as did Philip the deacon when he heard himself told: ""Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'. This is a desert road" (cf. Ac 8,26).

Today too, dear young people, there are many "desert roads" on which you will find yourselves walking in your lives as believers: it is on these very roads that you will be able to come abreast of those who are seeking life's meaning. Prepare yourselves also to be at the service of a culture that encourages the brotherly encounter of man with man and the discovery of salvation that comes to us from Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, Villa Nazareth has always been the object, from the very outset, of special predilection on the part of my venerable Predecessors: the Servant of God Pius XII, who saw it come into being; the Servant of God John Paul II, who came to visit you 10 years ago on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation. This benevolence of the Popes has nourished and continues to nourish your spiritual bond with the Holy See.

At the same time, this bond of esteem and affection engages you to walk faithfully in the footsteps of that great "man of God", Cardinal Domenico Tardini. With his words and example, he urges you to be especially sensitive, attentive and receptive to the teachings of the Church.

With these sentiments, as I invoke upon you the special protection of Our Lady "Mater Ecclesiae", I assure each one of you of my remembrance in prayer and bless you all with affection, starting with your numerous children.
Speeches 2005-13 55