Speeches 2005-13 25067


Dear Brothers in Christ,

With great joy and sincere esteem I welcome and greet you with the words that St Paul addressed to the Christians of Ephesus: "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 6,23). It is a greeting of peace, love and faith.

Welcome among us, dear Brothers, for the Feast of the Patrons of this City of ours, St Peter and St Paul! With their martyrdom they witnessed to faith in Christ the Saviour and love for God the Father. Your appreciated and significant presence makes our Feast all the more joyful, for it is beautiful to give glory together to God who fills us with his Grace.

The memory of the warm welcome I received at the Phanar for the Feast of St Andrew, during my Apostolic Visit to Turkey last November, is still vividly impressed in my mind and in my heart, and even more vivid is my unforgettable meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Holy Synod and the faithful. I am still profoundly moved and grateful for it all.

The embrace of peace we exchanged during the Divine Liturgy remains a seal and a commitment for our lives as Pastors of the Church, since we are all convinced that reciprocal love is a prerequisite for achieving that full unity in faith and in ecclesial life towards which we have set out with trust.

This is truly the aim of our common initiatives: to intensify the sentiments and relations of love between our Churches and between the individual members of the faithful in such a way as to overcome those prejudices and misunderstandings that derive from centuries of separation in order to face, in truth but with a fraternal spirit, the difficulties that still prevent us from approaching the same Eucharistic table.

In this regard, prayer has an indispensable role because the Lord alone can direct and guide our steps, since unity is first and foremost a gift of God to be implored in unison and to be welcomed with humble docility, aware of the sacrifices which the journey of rapprochement to unity entails.
The present impossibility of concelebrating the Lord's one Eucharist is a sign that full communion does not yet exist; we wish to try to overcome this situation with determination and loyalty.

We are therefore delighted that the theological dialogue has been resumed with renewed spirit and vigour. The competent Joint International Commission will be meeting next autumn to continue to study such a central and crucial issue as the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental structure of the Church, and in particular, collegiality and authority in the Church.

We all desire to accompany its work with persevering prayer. May the Lord enlighten the Catholic and Orthodox members so that they may propose, on the basis of Sacred Scripture and of the Tradition of the Church, solutions that can lead us to make important steps towards full communion.
I am very pleased to hear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew I himself are following the work of this Commission with similar sentiments.

The search for full unity cannot be limited to fraternal relations between Pastors and the work of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue, however demanding it may be; the experience of history and the present situation teach us that the involvement of the entire Body of our Churches is necessary, in different forms. On this spiritual journey a privileged role is played by the theological faculties and institutes for research and teaching.

This was previously pointed out by the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council when it clearly emphasized: "Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially those of a historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond as exactly as possible with the facts".

The Conciliar Document consequently drew the conclusion that: "It is important that future Pastors and priests should have mastered a theology that has been carefully elaborated in this way" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 10).

In this perspective how important personal and cultural contacts among young students are! Their exchanges at the level of post-university specialization is a fruitful area, as past experiences of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration show.

Catechetical formation of the new generations should also be fostered, so that they are fully aware of their own ecclesial identity and the bonds of communion that exist with the other brethren in Christ, without forgetting the problems and obstacles that still hinder full communion between us.

Dear Brothers in Christ, your presence with us for the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul testifies to the desire for this common search, a desire which has also been brought into the limelight by other encounters and events promoted by Catholics and Orthodox at a local level.

Furthermore, your visit this year coincides with the announcement I have made of an important initiative of the Catholic Church, the Pauline Year, that is, a Jubilee Year dedicated to the memory of St Paul on the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. I am sure that this will constitute another particularly appropriate opportunity for promoting moments of prayer, study meetings and fraternal gestures between Catholics and Orthodox.

May St Paul, a great evangelizer and tireless builder of unity, help us to be docile to the voice of the Spirit and obtain for us that missionary zeal which set his whole life on fire.

With these sentiments, I once again thank each one of you for your visit, and as I renew the expression of my affection and esteem to His Holiness Bartholomew I, I express the hope that we may intensify together every possible effort on the way towards full communion; and to this end I invoke upon our Churches an abundance of Blessings from Our Lord Jesus Christ.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with great joy, Pastors of God's pilgrim Church in Puerto Rico, who have come to Rome on your ad limina visit to strengthen the deep bonds that unite you with this Apostolic See. Through each one of you, I send my cordial greeting and express my affection and esteem to the priests, religious communities and lay faithful of your respective particular Churches.

I am grateful for the friendly words which Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves of San Juan de Puerto Rico, President of your Bishops' Conference, has expressed to me on behalf of all. He has explained the anxieties and hopes of your pastoral ministry, which aims to guide the People of God on the path of salvation by strongly proclaiming the Catholic faith for a better formation of the faithful.

The quinquennial reports demonstrate your anxiety about the challenges and problems which must be confronted at this time in history. Indeed, in recent years many things have changed in the social, economic and also religious contexts. These changes have sometimes led to religious indifference and a certain moral relativism which influence religious practice and indirectly affect the structures of society itself.

This religious situation calls you into question as Pastors. In addition, it requires that you remain united to make the Lord's presence more tangible among men and women through joint pastoral projects that respond better to the new reality.

It is fundamental to preserve and increase the gift of unity which Jesus implored from the Father for his disciples (cf. Jn 17,11). You are called to live and to bear witness to Christ's desire for his Church's unity in your respective dioceses.

Moreover, far from threatening this unity, the possible differences in local customs and traditions can contribute to enriching the common faith. And, as successors of the Apostles, you must be eager to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,3).

Therefore, I would like to recall that all, especially Bishops and priests, are called to an inalienable mission which strongly binds you to ensuring that the Church is a place where the mystery of divine love is taught and lived. Only an authentic spirituality of communion, visibly expressed in mutual collaboration and fraternal life, will make this possible.

Priests constitute a sector that demands your prime pastoral attention. They are in the front line of evangelization and are especially in need of your care and personal closeness. Your relationship with them must not be merely institutional. Rather, as your true sons, friends and brothers, it should be inspired above all by love (cf. 1P 4,8) as an expression of episcopal fatherhood. This must be expressed in a special way to priests who are sick or elderly, as well as to those who are in difficult circumstances.

Priests, for their part, must remember that they are first and foremost men of God. Thus, they must nurture their own spiritual life and their continuing formation.

All their ministerial work "must begin effectively with prayer", as St Albert the Great said (Commentary on Dionysius' Mystical Theology, 15). Every priest must find in this encounter with God the strength to exercise his ministry with greater devotion and dedication, setting an example of availability and detachment from all that is superfluous.

In thinking of future candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life, it is necessary to highlight the importance of ceaseless prayer to the Lord of the Harvest (cf. Mt 9,38), so that he will give many and holy vocations to the Church in Puerto Rico, especially in the present situation in which young people often find it difficult to respond to the Lord's call to the priestly or consecrated life.

Therefore, you should develop a specific vocations apostolate which will encourage those in charge of the pastoral care of youth to be daring mediators of the Lord's call.

Above all, you should not be afraid to suggest his call to young men and subsequently accompany them with assiduous care in both the human and spiritual environments, so that they may ever more clearly discern their vocational decision.

With regard to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, the Bishop must take the greatest pains to choose the most suitable and best qualified educators for this role.

Given the concrete circumstances and number of vocations in Puerto Rico, it might be possible to consider joining forces and pooling resources in a common agreement and with a spirit of unity in pastoral planning in order to obtain better and more satisfactory results. This would allow for a better choice of formation teachers and professors to help each seminarian to grow with a "mature and balanced personality... solid in the spiritual life, and in love with the Church" (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

In this delicate task, all priests must feel co-responsible, promoting new vocations above all by their own example and without failing to support those that have developed in their own parish community or in some movement.

A mindset inspired by secularism is spreading in society in a more or less known form and is gradually leading to contempt or ignorance of all that is sacred, relegating faith to the merely private sphere. A correct concept of religious freedom is incompatible with this ideology, which is sometimes presented as the only rational voice.

The family is also a permanent challenge for you. It is threatened on all sides by the snares of the modern world such as the prevalent materialism, the search for instant pleasure and the lack of steadfast fidelity by couples who are constantly influenced by the media.

When marriage is not built on the rock of true love and mutual self-giving, it is easily swept away by the current of divorce and also looks askance at the value of life, especially that of unborn children.
This panorama reveals the need to intensify, as you are already doing, an effective family apostolate which helps Christian spouses to assume the fundamental values of the Sacrament they have received.

In this regard, faithful to Christ's teaching, through your magisterium you proclaim the truth about the family as a domestic Church and sanctuary of life in the face of certain trends in contemporary society that seek to eclipse or to confuse the one, irreplaceable value of marriage between a man and a woman.

The above-mentioned religious indifferentism and the easy temptation of lax morals, as well as the ignorance of the Christian tradition with its rich spiritual patrimony, exert a powerful influence on the new generations. Young people have the right, from the beginning of the process of their formation, to be educated in faith and sound morals. For this reason, the integral education of the youngest cannot omit religious teaching at school as well. A solid religious formation will also serve as an effective shield against the advance of sects or other religious groups widespread today.

The Catholic faithful, who are called to administer temporal realities to order them in accordance with the divine will, must bear a courageous witness to their faith in the different spheres of public life. Their participation in ecclesial life, moreover, is fundamental, and without their collaboration your apostolate as Pastors would sometimes not reach "all men, of every epoch and all over the earth" (Lumen Gentium LG 33).

On this topic, I would like to recall some important words spoken by my Predecessor, John Paul II, during his Pastoral Visit to Puerto Rico: "In the course of your ministry you will sometimes be faced with issues which involve specific choices of a political nature. In such situations you must be constant in proclaiming the moral principles which govern every field of human activity. But lay people with morally upright consciences are those best qualified for the ordering of temporal matters according to God's plan. Leave such matters to them. Your task is to foster communion and brotherhood; not to provoke discord in regard to matters where the faithful may legitimately choose between different courses of action" (Address to Clergy and Religious of Puerto Rico, 12 October 1984; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 26 November, p. 11, n. 3).

Some sectors of your society have all they need in abundance while others suffer serious shortages which often verge on poverty. In this context, the generosity of Puerto Ricans, who respond with solidarity to the cries for help in certain tragedies in the world, is well known. It is to be hoped in this regard that this same generosity, coordinated by the services of the Puerto Rican Caritas, will also be forthcoming in those circumstances when local groups, individuals or families stand in need of real assistance.

Dear Brothers: in Puerto Rico evangelization and the practice of the faith have always gone hand in hand with filial love for the Virgin Mary. This is demonstrated by the churches, shrines and monuments, and also the devotional practices and popular celebrations in honour of the Mother of God. To her I entrust your intentions and your pastoral work.

I place under her motherly protection all the priests, religious communities, families, young people, sick and especially the most deprived. Please take back to everyone the Pope's greeting and deep affection, together with his Apostolic Blessing.

July 2007


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

At this collective meeting during your visit ad limina Apostolorum, I rejoice to share the same faith in Jesus Christ which accompanies our journey and is alive and present in the communities entrusted to your pastoral care. I address my affectionate greeting to you as well as to the diocesan Churches over which you preside with such great dedication and generosity.

I am grateful to Archbishop Ramón Benito de la Rosa y Carpio of Santiago de los Caballeros, President of the Dominican Bishops' Conference, for his kind words on behalf of all. At the same time, I feel I closely share in your anxieties and aspirations. I ask God to grant that this visit to Rome may be a source of blessings for all the priests, religious communities and pastoral workers who collaborate with you amid the beloved Dominican People, aware of the challenges of the globalized world which are to be reckoned with today.

In your quinquennial reports, I noted that your Church is a community that is alive, dynamic, participatory and missionary; it feels challenged by Jesus' mandate to proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation (cf. Mc 16,15) and strives to ensure that this proclamation reaches everyone.
To achieve this goal, the message must be clear and precise so that the words of life proclaimed may be converted into personal attachment to Jesus, our Saviour.

Thus, "it is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with an intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments and a truth to be lived out" (Veritatis Splendor VS 88).

The priority of your pastoral ministry must be to ensure that the truth about Christ and the truth about man penetrate more deeply the different strata of Dominican society, since "[t]here is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22).

This work, which is not exempt from difficulties, develops among a people whose spirit is open and sensitive to the Good News.

There is no doubt that the symptoms of a process of secularization are also making themselves felt in your Country in which for many people God does not represent the origin and destination of life nor its ultimate meaning. Yet, basically, as you well know, this people has a profoundly Christian soul, demonstrated by the lively and active Ecclesial Communities in which so many people, families and groups are doing their best to live and witness to their faith.

The family is also a priority objective of the new evangelization. It is the true "domestic Church", especially when it is the fruit of lively Christian communities which produce young people who have a true vocation to the Sacrament of Marriage.

Families are not alone in having to face great challenges; the Ecclesial Community supports them, enlivens their faith and ensures their perseverance in a Christian project of life that is all too often subject to so many ups and downs and dangers.

The Church desires that the family truly be the place where the person is born, matures and is educated for life, and where parents, by loving their children tenderly, prepare them for healthy interpersonal relationships which embody moral and human values in the midst of a society so heavily marked by hedonism and religious indifference.

At the same time, in collaboration with the public institutions, Ecclesial Communities will be on the alert to safeguard the stability of families and to encourage their spiritual and material progress. This will lead to an improvement in the upbringing of children.

For this reason, it is to be hoped that the Authorities of your beloved Country collaborate increasingly in this indispensable task of working for families.

In this regard, my Predecessor stressed in his Message for the World Day of Peace in 1994: "The family has a right to the full support of the State in order to carry out fully its particular mission" (n. 5).

I am not unaware of the problems which the family institution encounters in your Nation, especially with the drama of divorce and the pressures to legalize abortion, in addition to the spread of unions that do not comply with the Creator's plan for marriage.

I know that you take special care of priestly vocations in order to meet all the needs of your Dioceses. Indeed, the promotion of priestly and religious vocations must be a priority for the Bishops and a commitment of all the faithful.

I therefore fervently implore the Lord of the harvest that he will continue to give to your seminaries - which must be seen as the very heart of the Diocese (cf. Optatam Totius OT 5) - numerous candidates to the priesthood who will one day serve their brethren as "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4,1).

In addition to an integral formation, a profound discernment is necessary on the human and Christian suitability of seminarians in order to ensure as well as possible that their future ministry will be exercised with dignity.

Taking into account that "the presbyterate thus appears as a true family" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, PDV 74), it is desirable that the bonds of charity between the Bishop and his priests be very strong and cordial. If young men see that priests live a true spirituality of communion around their Bishop, witnessing to union and charity among themselves, to Gospel charity and missionary availability, they themselves will feel more attracted to the priestly vocation.

It is of paramount importance that Bishops pay special attention to their principal collaborators, the priests (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 8), that they be impartial in their dealings with them, closely acquainted with their personal and pastoral needs, fatherly to them in their difficulties and that they give constant encouragement to their priests' work and endeavours and, in the context of the new evangelization, that they reach out to those who have distanced themselves.

The theme this year of the Third Pastoral Plan: "Disciple of the Lord, welcome those who are close and seek out those who are distant", has a vast application in the complex context of migration which involves so many families.

Devote much effort to reach groups of your compatriots who are abroad, but I also warmly ask you to accompany with great love the Haitian immigrants who have left their Country in search of better living conditions for themselves and their families, as you are already doing.

I am pleased to observe that you have already been in contact with your brother Bishops of Haiti in the endeavour to alleviate the situation of poverty and wretchedness which is an offence to the dignity of so many people in this Sister Nation.

In your episcopal ministry many pastoral challenges are closely related to the evangelization of culture which must promote human and evangelical values in their full integrity.

The field of culture is one of "the modern equivalents of the Areopagus", in which the Gospel must be made present with its full impact (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 37). It is impossible to do this task without the social communications media: radio, television broadcasts, videos and computer networks can be most useful for spreading the Gospel far and wide.

This task particularly involves lay people, since it is part of their distinctive task to "take on themselves this renewal of the temporal order. Guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, prompted by Christian love, they should act in this domain in a direct way and in their own specific manner" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 7).

It is therefore necessary to give them an appropriate religious formation which makes them capable of facing the numerous challenges of contemporary society. It is up to them to promote the human and Christian values which illumine the political, economic and cultural reality of the Country, in order to establish a fair and more equitable social order in accordance with the Church's social doctrine.

At the same time, consistent with ethical and moral norms, they must set an example of honesty and transparency in the management of public activities, in the face of the sly and widespread blight of corruption which at times also creeps into the areas of political and economic power, as well as into other public and social milieus.

Lay people must be the leaven in society, acting in public life to illumine with Gospel values the various areas in which a people's identity is forged. With their daily activities, they must "testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response... to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society" (Christifideles Laici CL 34).

Their condition as citizens and followers of Christ must not induce them to lead "two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called "spiritual' life with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called "secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture" (ibid., n. 59).

On the contrary, there must be an effort to make consistency in life and in faith an eloquent testimony of the truth of the Christian message.

Together with you, I would like to entrust all these suggestions and desires to the Virgin of Altagracia, the title with which you honour your Mother and Patroness of the Nation, so that she will continue to accompany your pastoral work.

I entrust you to her with full hope as I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially extend to your particular Churches, your priests, religious communities and consecrated persons as well as to the Catholic faithful of the Dominican Republic.



AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE CONCERT Mirabello Castle, Lorenzago di Cadore Friday, 20 July 2007

Your Excellency,
Dear Friends,

At the end of this wonderful presentation of the great musical culture of your Dolomite region, I can only say "thank you" to you with all my heart. Thank you for this beautiful culture.

I have remembered something St Augustine said: "Cantare amantis est". Love is a source of song. Song is an expression of love. In your singing I could sense this great love for the beauty of the Dolomite region, for this earth given to us by the Lord.

And in the "thanks", in the love for this earth, the love for the Creator is present and re-echoes, love for God who gave us this land, this life of joy; a joy we see once again in the light of our faith, which tells us that God loves us.

The popular culture, expressed in such a lofty way, is a jewel of our European identity that must be cultivated and developed. I thank all those who work to make this great European culture present, today and in the future.

Learning to sing, in choral singing, is not only an exercise of physical hearing and of the voice; it is also an education in inner hearing, the hearing of the heart, an exercise and an education in living and in peace.

Singing, whether in unison, in a choir and in all the choirs together, demands attention to the other, attention to the composer, attention to the conductor, attention to this whole that we call music and culture.

Hence, singing in a choir is an education in life, an education in peace, it is "walking together", as His Excellency said in reference to the Diocesan Synod.

The Bishop also referred to a sad and difficult period, 90 years ago, when these mountains were a barrier, a terrible blood-bathed scene of war.

Let us thank the Lord because today there is peace in our Europe and let us do all we can to encourage the growth of peace in all of us and throughout the world. I am sure that precisely this beautiful music is a commitment to peace and a help to living in peace.

I warmly thank all of you, the Bishop, the presenter and the conductors of the choirs. I would like to express my thanks to you in the Lord's Name, together with my Apostolic Blessing.

After imparting the Blessing:

Good night, thank you and goodbye. I wish you all a good holiday!


WITH THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESES OF BELLUNO-FELTRE AND TREVISO Church of St Justin Martyr, Auronzo di Cadore Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Your Holiness, I am Fr Claudio. The question I wanted to ask you is about the formation of conscience, especially in young people, because today it seems more and more difficult to form a consistent conscience, an upright conscience. Good and evil are often confused with having good and bad feelings, the more emotive aspect. So I would like to hear your advice. Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Your Excellency, dear Brothers, I would like first of all to express my joy and gratitude for this beautiful meeting. I thank the two Pastors, Bishop Andrich and Bishop Mazzocato, for their invitation. I offer my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have come here in such large numbers during the holiday season. To see a church full of priests is encouraging because it shows us that there are priests. The Church is alive, despite the increasing problems in our day and especially in the Western hemisphere. The Church is still alive and has priests who truly desire to proclaim the Kingdom of God; she is growing and standing up to these complications that we perceive in our cultural situation today. Now, to a certain extent, this first question reflects a problem of Western culture, since in the last two centuries the concept of "conscience" has undergone a profound transformation. Today, the idea prevails that only what is quantifiable can be rational, which stems from reason. Other things, such as the subjects of religion and morals, should not enter into common reason because they cannot be proven or, rather, put to the "acid test", so to speak. In this situation, where morals and religion are as it were almost expelled from reason, the subject is the only ultimate criterion of morality and also of religion, the subjective conscience which knows no other authority. In the end, the subject alone decides, with his feelings and experience, on the possible criteria he has discovered. Yet, in this way the subject becomes an isolated reality and, as you said, the parameters change from one day to the next. In the Christian tradition, "conscience", "con-scientia", means "with knowledge": that is, ourselves, our being is open and can listen to the voice of being itself, the voice of God. Thus, the voice of the great values is engraved in our being and the greatness of the human being is precisely that he is not closed in on himself, he is not reduced to the material, something quantifiable, but possesses an inner openness to the essentials and has the possibility of listening. In the depths of our being, not only can we listen to the needs of the moment, to material needs, but we can also hear the voice of the Creator himself and thus discern what is good and what is bad. Of course, this capacity for listening must be taught and encouraged. The commitment to the preaching that we do in church consists of precisely this: developing this very lofty capacity with which God has endowed human beings for listening to the voice of truth and also the voice of values. I would say, therefore, that a first step would be to make people aware that our very nature carries in itself a moral message, a divine message that must be deciphered. We can become increasingly better acquainted with it and listen to it if our inner hearing is open and developed. The actual question now is how to carry out in practice this education in listening, how to make human beings capable of it despite all the forms of modern deafness, how to ensure that this listening, the Ephphatha of Baptism, the opening of the inner senses, truly takes place. In taking stock of the current situation, I would propose the combination of a secular approach and a religious approach, the approach of faith. Today, we all see that man can destroy the foundations of his existence, his earth, hence, that we can no longer simply do what we like or what seems useful and promising at the time with this earth of ours, with the reality entrusted to us. On the contrary, we must respect the inner laws of creation, of this earth, we must learn these laws and obey these laws if we wish to survive. Consequently, this obedience to the voice of the earth, of being, is more important for our future happiness than the voices of the moment, the desires of the moment. In short, this is a first criterion to learn: that being itself, our earth, speaks to us and we must listen if we want to survive and to decipher this message of the earth. And if we must be obedient to the voice of the earth, this is even truer for the voice of human life. Not only must we care for the earth, we must respect the other, others: both the other as an individual person, as my neighbour, and others as communities who live in the world and have to live together. And we see that it is only with full respect for this creature of God, this image of God which man is, and with respect for our coexistence on this earth, that we can develop. And here we reach the point when we need the great moral experiences of humanity. These experiences are born from the encounter with the other, with the community. We need the experience that human freedom is always a shared freedom and can only function if we share our freedom with respect for the values that are common to us all. It seems to me that with these steps it will be possible to make people see the need to obey the voice of being, to respect the dignity of the other, to accept the need to live our respective freedom together as one freedom, and through all this to recognize the intrinsic value that can make a dignified communion of life possible among human beings. Thus, as has been said, we come to the great experiences of humanity in which the voice of being is expressed. We especially come to the experiences of this great historical pilgrimage of the People of God that began with Abraham. In him, not only do we find the fundamental human experiences but also, we can hear through these experiences the voice of the Creator himself, who loves us and has spoken to us. Here, in this context, respecting the human experiences that point out the way to us today and in the future, I believe that the Ten Commandments always have a priority value in which we see the important signposts on our way. The Ten Commandments reinterpreted, relived in the light of Christ, in the light of the life of the Church and of her experiences, point to certain fundamental and essential values. Together, the Fourth and Sixth Commandments suggest the importance of our body, of respecting the laws of the body and of sexuality and love, the value of faithful love, of the family; the Fifth Commandment points to the value of life and also the value of community life; the Seventh Commandment regards the value of sharing the earth's goods and of a fair distribution of these goods and of the stewardship of God's creation; the Eighth Commandment points to the great value of truth. If, therefore, in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Commandments we have love of neighbour, in the Seventh we have the truth. None of this works without communion with God, without respect for God and God's presence in the world. In any case, a world without God becomes an arbitrary and egoistic world. There is light and hope only if God appears. Our life has a meaning which we must not produce ourselves but which precedes us and guides us. In this sense, therefore, I would say that together, we should take the obvious routes which today even the lay conscience can easily discern. We should therefore seek to guide people to the deepest voices, to the true voice of the conscience that is communicated through the great tradition of prayer, of the moral life of the Church. Thus, in a process of patient education, I think we can all learn to live and to find true life.

I am Fr Mauro. Your Holiness, in exercising our pastoral ministry we are increasingly burdened by many duties. Our tasks in the management and administration of parishes, pastoral organization and assistance to people in difficulty are piling up. I ask you, what are the priorities we should aim for in our ministry as priests and parish priests to avoid fragmentation on the one hand and on the other, dispersion? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: That is a very realistic question, is it not? I am also somewhat familiar with this problem, with all the daily procedures, with all the necessary audiences, with all that there is to do. Yet, it is necessary to determine the right priorities and not to forget the essential: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. On hearing your question, I remembered the Gospel of two weeks ago on the mission of the 70 disciples. For this first important mission which Jesus had them undertake, the Lord gave them three orders which on the whole I think express the great priorities in the work of a disciple of Christ, a priest, in our day too. The three imperatives are: to pray, to provide care, to preach. I think we should find the balance between these three basic imperatives and keep them ever present as the heart of our work. Prayer: which is to say, without a personal relationship with God nothing else can function, for we cannot truly bring God, the divine reality or true human life to people unless we ourselves live them in a deep, true relationship of friendship with God in Jesus Christ. Hence, the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a fundamental encounter where the Lord speaks to me and I speak to the Lord who gives himself through my hands. Without the prayer of the Hours, in which we join in the great prayer of the entire People of God beginning with the Psalms of the ancient people who are renewed in the faith of the Church, and without personal prayer, we cannot be good priests for we would lose the essence of our ministry. The first imperative is to be a man of God, in the sense of a man in friendship with Christ and with his Saints. Then comes the second command. Jesus said: tend the sick, seek those who have strayed, those who are in need. This is the Church's love for the marginalized and the suffering. Rich people can also be inwardly marginalized and suffering. "To take care of" refers to all human needs, which are always profoundly oriented to God. Thus, as has been said, it is necessary for us to know our sheep, to be on good terms with the people entrusted to us, to have human contact and not to lose our humanity, because God was made man and consequently strengthened all dimensions of our being as humans. However, as I said, the human and the divine always go hand in hand. To my mind, the sacramental ministry is also part of this "tending" in its multiple forms. The ministry of Reconciliation is an act of extraordinary caring which the person needs in order to be perfectly healthy. Thus, this sacramental care begins with Baptism, which is the fundamental renewal of our life, and extends to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. Of course, all the other sacraments and also the Eucharist involve great care for souls. We have to care for people but above all - this is our mandate - for their souls. We must think of the many illnesses and moral and spiritual needs that exist today and that we must face, guiding people to the encounter with Christ in the sacrament, helping them to discover prayer and meditation, being silently recollected in church with this presence of God. And then, preaching. What do we preach? We proclaim the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God is not a distant utopia in a better world which may be achieved in 50 years' time, or who knows when. The Kingdom of God is God himself, God close to us who became very close in Christ. This is the Kingdom of God: God himself is near to us and we must draw close to this God who is close for he was made man, remains man and is always with us in his Word, in the Most Holy Eucharist and in all believers. Therefore, proclaiming the Kingdom of God means speaking of God today, making present God's words, the Gospel which is God's presence and, of course, making present the God who made himself present in the Holy Eucharist. By interweaving these three priorities and, naturally, taking into account all the human aspects, including our own limitations that we must recognize, we can properly fulfil our priesthood. This humility that recognizes the limitations of our own strength is important as well. All that we cannot do, the Lord must do. And there is also the ability to delegate and to collaborate. All this must always go with the fundamental imperatives of praying, tending and preaching.

My name is Fr Daniele. Your Holiness, the Veneto is an area with a steady influx of immigrants where a sizable number of non-Christians are present. This situation confronts our dioceses with a new, internal task of evangelization. Moreover, this represents a certain difficulty since we have to reconcile the needs of Gospel proclamation with those of a respectful dialogue with other religions. What pastoral instructions can you suggest? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: You are naturally in close touch with this situation. And in this regard, I may be unable to give you much practical advice, but I can say that in all the ad limina visits, whether the Bishops come from Asia, Africa, Latin America or every part of Italy, I am always confronted with such situations. A uniform world no longer exists. All the other continents, the other religions, the other ways of living human life are present especially in the West. We are living a permanent encounter where we resemble the ancient Church because she experienced the same situation. Christians formed a tiny minority, a mustard seed that began to sprout, surrounded by very different religions and ways of life. We must learn once again, therefore, all that the first generations of Christians experienced. In his First Letter, St Peter said: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (3: 15). Thus, he formulated for the ordinary person of that time, for the ordinary Christian, the need to combine proclamation and dialogue. He did not say formally: "Proclaim the Gospel to everyone". He said: "You must be able, ready, to account for the hope that is in you". I think that this is the necessary synthesis between dialogue and proclamation. The first point is that the reason for our hope must be ever present within us. We must be people who live faith and think faith, people with an inner knowledge of it. So it is that faith becomes reason within us, it becomes reasonable. Meditation on the Gospel and in this case, proclamation, the homily and catechesis to enable people to ponder faith, already constitute fundamental elements in this web of dialogue and proclamation. We ourselves must think faith, live faith and, as priests, find different ways to make faith present so that our Christian Catholics can find the conviction, readiness and ability to account for their faith. This proclamation which transmits the faith to today's conscience must have many forms. The homily and catechesis are indisputably two of its principal forms, but there are also many ways of meeting, such as seminars on faith, lay movements, etc., where people talk about faith and learn the faith. All this makes us capable, first of all, of truly living as the neighbours of non-Christians - here, mainly Orthodox Christians, Protestants and also exponents of other religions, Muslims and others.
The first aspect is to live beside them, recognizing with them their neighbour, our neighbour; thus, living love of neighbour on the front line as an expression of our faith. I think that this is already a very powerful witness and also a form of proclamation: truly living love of neighbour with these others, recognizing the latter, recognizing them as our neighbour so that they can see: this "love of neighbour" is for me. If this happens, we will be able to more easily present the source of our behaviour, in other words, that love of neighbour is an expression of our faith. Thus, our dialogue cannot move on suddenly to the great mysteries of faith, although Muslims have a certain knowledge of Christ that denies his divinity but at least recognizes him as a great Prophet. They love Our Lady. These are consequently elements that we have in common, even in faith, and are starting points for dialogue. A perception of fundamental understanding on the values we should live is practical, feasible and above all necessary. Here too, we have a treasure in common because Muslims come from the religion of Abraham, reinterpreted and relived in ways to be studied and to which we should finally respond. Yet, the great substantial experience of the Ten Commandments is present and this seems to me a point that requires further investigation. Moving on to the great mysteries seems to me to be moving to a level that is far from easy and impossible to attain at large meetings. Perhaps the seed should enter hearts, so that here and there the response of faith in a more specific dialogue may mature. But what we can and must do is to seek a consensus on the fundamental values expressed in the Ten Commandments, summed up in love of neighbour and love of God, and which can thus be interpreted in the various life contexts. We are at least on a common journey towards the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who is ultimately the God with the human face, the God present in Jesus Christ. But if the latter step is to be made in intimate, personal encounters or small groups, the journey towards this God, from which derives these values that make life in common possible, I think this is feasible also at larger meetings. As a result, in my opinion a humble, patient form of proclamation should be undertaken here, which awaits but already realizes our life in accordance with knowledge enlightened by God.

I am Fr Samuele. We have accepted your invitation to pray, care for people and preach. We are taking you seriously by caring for you yourself; so, to express our affection, we have brought you several bottles of wholesome wine from our region, which we will make sure that you receive through our Bishop. So now for my question. We are seeing an enormous increase in situations of divorced people who remarry, live together and ask priests to help them with their spiritual life. These people often come to us with a heartfelt plea for access to the sacraments. These realities need to be faced and the sufferings they cause must be shared. Holy Father, may I ask you what are the human, spiritual and pastoral approaches with which one can combine compassion and truth? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Yes, this is indeed a painful problem and there is certainly no simple solution to resolve it. This problem makes us all suffer because we all have people close to us who are in this situation. We know it causes them sorrow and pain because they long to be in full communion with the Church. The previous bond of matrimony reduces their participation in the life of the Church. What can be done? I would say: as far as possible, we would naturally put prevention first. Hence, preparation for marriage becomes ever more fundamental and necessary. Canon Law presupposes that man as such, even without much education, intends to contract a marriage in harmony with human nature, as mentioned in the first chapters of Genesis. He is a human being, his nature is human and consequently he knows what marriage is. He intends to behave as human nature dictates to him. Canon Law starts from this presupposition. It is something compulsory: man is man, nature is what it is and tells him this. Today, however, this axiom, which holds that man prompted by his nature will make one faithful marriage, has been transformed into a somewhat different axiom. "Volunt contrahere matrimonium sicut ceteri homines". It is no longer nature alone that speaks, but the "ceteri homines": what everyone does. And what everyone does today is not simply to enter into natural marriage, in accordance with the Creator, in accordance with creation. What the "ceteri homines" do is to marry with the idea that one day their marriage might fail and that they will then be able to move on to another one, to a third or even a fourth marriage. This model of what "everyone does" thus becomes one that is contrary to what nature says. In this way, it becomes normal to marry, divorce and remarry, and no one thinks this is something contrary to human nature, or in any case those who do are few and far between. Therefore, to help people achieve a real marriage, not only in the sense of the Church but also of the Creator, we must revive their capacity for listening to nature. Let us return to the first query, the first question: rediscovering within what everyone does, what nature itself tells us, which is so different from what this modern custom dictates. Indeed, it invites us to marry for life, with lifelong fidelity including the suffering that comes from growing together in love. Thus, these preparatory courses for marriage must be a rectification of the voice of nature, of the Creator, within us, a rediscovery, beyond what all the "ceteri homines" do, of what our own being intimately tells us. In this situation, therefore, distinguishing between what everyone else does and what our being tells us, these preparatory courses for marriage must be a journey of rediscovery. They must help us learn anew what our being tells us. They must help couples reach the true decision of marriage in accordance with the Creator and the Redeemer. Hence, these preparatory courses are of great importance in order to "learn oneself", to learn the true intention for marriage. But preparation is not enough; the great crises come later. Consequently, ongoing guidance, at least in the first 10 years, is of the utmost importance. In the parish, therefore, it is not only necessary to provide preparatory courses but also communion in the journey that follows, guidance and mutual help. May priests, but not on their own, and families, which have already undergone such experiences and are familiar with such suffering and temptations, be available in moments of crisis. The presence of a network of families that help one another is important and different movements can make a considerable contribution. The first part of my answer provides for prevention, not only in the sense of preparation but also of guidance and for the presence of a network of families to assist in this contemporary situation where everything goes against faithfulness for life. It is necessary to help people find this faithfulness and learn it, even in the midst of suffering. However, in the case of failure, in other words, when the spouses are incapable of adhering to their original intention, there is always the question of whether it was a real decision in the sense of the sacrament. As a result, one possibility is the process for the declaration of nullity. If their marriage were authentic, which would prevent them from remarrying, the Church's permanent presence would help these people to bear the additional suffering. In the first case, we have the suffering that goes with overcoming this crisis and learning a hard-fought for and mature fidelity. In the second case, we have the suffering of being in a new bond which is not sacramental, hence, does not permit full communion in the sacraments of the Church. Here it would be necessary to teach and to learn how to live with this suffering. We return to this point, to the first question of the other diocese. In our generation, in our culture, we have to rediscover the value of suffering in general, and we have to learn that suffering can be a very positive reality which helps us to mature, to become more ourselves, and to be closer to the Lord who suffered for us and suffers with us. Even in the latter situation, therefore, the presence of the priest, families, movements, personal and communitarian communion in these situations, the helpful love of one's neighbour, a very specific love, is of the greatest importance. And I think that only this love, felt by the Church and expressed in the solidarity of many, can help these people recognize that they are loved by Christ and are members of the Church despite their difficult situation. Thus, it can help them to live the faith.

My name is Fr Saverio, so of course my question concerns the missions. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Fidei Donum. Many priests in our Diocese, myself included, have accepted the Pope's invitation; they, we, have lived and are living the experience of the mission ad gentes. There can be no doubt that this is an extraordinary experience which in my modest opinion could be shared by a great number of priests with a view to exchanges between Sister Churches. Since the instruction in the Encyclical is still timely today, given the dwindling number of priests in our countries, how and with what attitude should it be accepted and lived both by the priests who are sent out and by the whole diocese? Thank you.

Pope Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would first like to thank all these fidei donum priests and the dioceses. As I have already mentioned, I have received a great number of ad limina visits from Bishops of Asia, Africa and Latin America and they all tell me: "We are badly in need of fidei donum priests and we are deeply grateful for the work they do. They make present, often in extremely difficult situations, the catholicity of the Church and they make visible the great universal communion which we form, as well as the love for our distant neighbour who becomes close in the situation of the fidei donum priest". In the past 50 years I have almost tangibly felt and seen this great gift, truly given, in my conversations with priests who say to us: "Do not think that we Africans are now quite self-sufficient; we are still in need of the visibility of the great communion of the universal Church". I would say that we all need to be visible as Catholics and we need to love the neighbour who comes from afar and thus finds his neighbour. Today, the situation has changed in the sense that we in Europe also receive priests from Africa, Latin America and even from other parts of Europe. This enables us to perceive the beauty of this exchange of gifts, this gift of one to the other, because we all need one another: it is precisely in this way that the Body of Christ grows. To sum up, I would like to say that this gift was and is a great gift, perceived in the Church as such: in so many situations that I cannot describe here, which involve social problems, problems of development, problems of the proclamation of the faith, problems of loneliness, the need for the presence of others, these priests are a gift in which the dioceses and particular Churches recognize the presence of Christ who gives himself for us. At the same time, they recognize that Eucharistic Communion is not only a supranatural communion but becomes concrete communion in this gift of self of diocesan priests who make themselves available to other dioceses, and that the network of particular Churches thus truly becomes a network of love. Thanks to all those who have made this gift. I can only encourage Bishops and priests to continue making this gift. I know that today, with the shortage of vocations, it is becoming more and more difficult in Europe to make this gift; but we already have the experience that other continents in turn, such as especially India and Africa, also give us priests. Reciprocity continues to be of paramount importance. Precisely the experience that we are the Church sent out into the world which everyone knows and loves, is very necessary and also constitutes the power of proclamation. Thus, people can see that the mustard seed bears fruit and ceaselessly, time and again, becomes a great tree in which the birds of the air find repose. Thank you and be strong.

Fr Alberto: Holy Father, young people are our future and our hope: but they sometimes see life as a difficulty rather than an opportunity; not as a gift for themselves and for others but as something to be consumed on the spot; not as a future to be built but as aimless wandering. The contemporary mindset demands that young people be happy and perfect all of the time. The result is that every tiny failure and the least difficulty are no longer seen as causes for growth but as a defeat. All this often leads to irreversible acts such as suicide, which wound the hearts of those who love them and of society as a whole. What can you tell us educators who feel all too often that our hands are tied and that we have no answers? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: I think you have just given us a precise description of a life in which God does not figure. At first sight, it seems as if we do not need God or indeed, that without God we would be freer and the world would be grander. But after a certain time, we see in our young people what happens when God disappears. As Nietzsche said: "The great light has been extinguished, the sun has been put out". Life is then a chance event. It becomes a thing that I must seek to do the best I can with and use life as though it were a thing that serves my own immediate, tangible and achievable happiness. But the big problem is that were God not to exist and were he not also the Creator of my life, life would actually be a mere cog in evolution, nothing more; it would have no meaning in itself. Instead, I must seek to give meaning to this component of being. Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called "creationism" and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance. This is what I wanted to say in my lecture at Regensburg: that reason should be more open, that it should indeed perceive these facts but also realize that they are not enough to explain all of reality. They are insufficient. Our reason is broader and can also see that our reason is not basically something irrational, a product of irrationality, but that reason, creative reason, precedes everything and we are truly the reflection of creative reason. We were thought of and desired; thus, there is an idea that preceded me, a feeling that preceded me, that I must discover, that I must follow, because it will at last give meaning to my life. This seems to me to be the first point: to discover that my being is truly reasonable, it was thought of, it has meaning. And my important mission is to discover this meaning, to live it and thereby contribute a new element to the great cosmic harmony conceived of by the Creator. If this is true, then difficulties also become moments of growth, of the process and progress of my very being, which has meaning from conception until the very last moment of life. We can get to know this reality of meaning that precedes all of us, we can also rediscover the meaning of pain and suffering; there is of course one form of suffering that we must avoid and must distance from the world: all the pointless suffering caused by dictatorships and erroneous systems, by hatred and by violence. However, in suffering there is also a profound meaning, and only if we can give meaning to pain and suffering can our life mature. I would say, above all, that there can be no love without suffering, because love always implies renouncement of myself, letting myself go and accepting the other in his otherness; it implies a gift of myself and therefore, emerging from myself. All this is pain and suffering, but precisely in this suffering caused by the losing of myself for the sake of the other, for the loved one and hence, for God, I become great and my life finds love, and in love finds its meaning. The inseparability of love and suffering, of love and God, are elements that must enter into the modern conscience to help us live. In this regard, I would say that it is important to help the young discover God, to help them discover the true love that precisely in renunciation becomes great and so also enables them to discover the inner benefit of suffering, which makes me freer and greater. Of course, to help young people find these elements, companionship and guidance are always essential, whether through the parish, Catholic Action or a Movement. It is only in the company of others that we can also reveal this great dimension of our being to the new generations.

I am Fr Francesco. Holy Father, one sentence you wrote in your book made a deep impression on me: "[But] what did Jesus actually bring if not world peace, universal prosperity and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is very simple: "God. He has brought God'" (Jesus of Nazareth, English edition, p. 44); I find the clarity and truth of this citation disarming. This is my question: there is talk about the new evangelization, the new proclamation of the Gospel - this was also the main theme of the Synod of our Diocese, Belluno-Feltre - but what should we do so that this God, the one treasure brought by Jesus and who all too often appears hazy to many, shines forth anew in our homes and becomes the water that quenches even the thirst of the many who seem no longer to be thirsting? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Thank you. Yours is a fundamental question. The fundamental question of our pastoral work is how to bring God to the world, to our contemporaries. Of course, bringing God is a multi-dimensional task: already in Jesus' preaching, in his life and his death we see how this One develops in so many dimensions. I think that we should always be mindful of two things: on the one hand, the Christian proclamation. Christianity is not a highly complicated collection of so many dogmas that it is impossible for anyone to know them all; it is not something exclusively for academicians who can study these things, but it is something simple: God exists and God is close in Jesus Christ. Thus, to sum up, Jesus Christ himself said that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Basically, what we preach is one, simple thing. All the dimensions subsequently revealed are dimensions of this one thing and all people do not have to know everything but must certainly enter into the depths and into the essential. In this way, the different dimensions also unfold with ever increasing joy. But in practice what should be done? I think, speaking of pastoral work today, that we have already touched on the essential points. But to continue in this direction, bringing God implies above all, on the one hand, love, and on the other, hope and faith. Thus, the dimension of life lived, bearing the best witness for Christ, the best proclamation, is always the life of true Christians. If we see that families nourished by faith live in joy, that they also experience suffering in profound and fundamental joy, that they help others, loving God and their neighbour, in my opinion this is the most beautiful proclamation today. For me too, the most comforting proclamation is always that of seeing Catholic families or personalities who are penetrated by faith: the presence of God truly shines out in them and they bring the "living water" that you mentioned. The fundamental proclamation is, therefore, precisely that of the actual life of Christians. Of course, there is also the proclamation of the Word. We must spare no effort to ensure that the Word is listened to and known. Today, there are numerous schools of the Word and of the conversation with God in Sacred Scripture, a conversation which necessarily also becomes prayer, because the purely theoretical study of Sacred Scripture is a form of listening that is merely intellectual and would not be a real or satisfactory encounter with the Word of God. If it is true that in Scripture and in the Word of God it is the Living Lord God who speaks to us, who elicits our response and our prayers, then schools of Scripture must also be schools of prayer, of dialogue with God, of drawing intimately close to God: consequently, the whole proclamation. Then, of course, I would say the sacraments. All the Saints also always come with God. It is important - Sacred Scripture tell us from the very outset - that God never comes by himself but comes accompanied and surrounded by the Angels and Saints. In the great stained glass window in St Peter's which portrays the Holy Spirit, what I like so much is the fact that God is surrounded by a throng of Angels and living beings who are an expression, an emanation, so to speak, of God's love. And with God, with Christ, with the man who is God and with God who is man, Our Lady arrives. This is very important. God, the Lord, has a Mother and in his Mother we truly recognize God's motherly goodness. Our Lady, Mother of God, is the Help of Christians, she is our permanent comfort, our great help. I see this too in the dialogue with the Bishops of the world, of Africa and lately also of Latin America; I see that love for Our Lady is the driving force of catholicity. In Our Lady we recognize all God's tenderness, so, fostering and living out Our Lady's, Mary's, joyful love is a very great gift of catholicity. Then there are the Saints. Every place has its own Saint. This is good because in this way we see the range of colours of God's one light and of his love which comes close to us. It means discovering the Saints in their beauty, in their drawing close to me in the Word, so that in a specific Saint I may find expressed precisely for me the inexhaustible Word of God, and then all the aspects of parochial life, even the human ones. We must not always be in the clouds, in the loftiest clouds of Mystery. We must have our feet firmly planted on the ground and together live the joy of being a great family: the great little family of the parish; the great family of the diocese, the great family of the universal Church. In Rome I can see all this, I can see how people from every part of the world who do not know one another are actually acquainted because they all belong to the family of God. They are close to one another because they all possess the love of the Lord, the love of Our Lady, the love of the Saints, Apostolic Succession and the Successor of Peter and the Bishops. I would say that this joy of catholicity with its many different hues is also the joy of beauty. We have here the beauty of a beautiful organ; the beauty of a very beautiful church, the beauty that has developed in the Church. I think this is a marvellous testimony of God's presence and of the truth of God. Truth is expressed in beauty, and we must be grateful for this beauty and seek to do our utmost to ensure that it is ever present, that it develops and continues to grow. In this way, I believe that God will be very concretely in our midst.

I am Fr Lorenzo, a parish priest. Holy Father, the faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be experts in encouraging the encounter of human beings with God. These are not my own words but something Your Holiness said in an Address to the clergy. My spiritual director at the seminary, in those trying sessions of spiritual direction, said to me: "Lorenzino, humanly we've made it, but...", and when he said "but", what he meant was that I preferred playing football to Eucharistic Adoration. And he meant that this did my vocation no good and that it was not right to dispute lessons of morals and law, because the teachers knew more about them that I did. And with that "but", who knows what else he meant. I now think of him in Heaven, and in any case I say some requiems for him. In spite of everything, I have been a priest for 34 years and I am happy about that, too. I have worked no miracles nor have I known any disasters or perhaps I did not recognize them. I feel that "humanly we've made it" is a great compliment. However, does not bringing man close to God and God to man pass above all through what we call humanity, which is indispensable even for us priests?

Benedict XVI: Thank you. I would simply say "yes" to what you said at the end. Catholicism, somewhat simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great "et et": not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of "Catholic" is "synthesis". I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law. Let us do both these things. It is great to do sports. I am not a great sportsman, yet I used to like going to the mountains when I was younger; now I only go on some very easy excursions, but I always find it very beautiful to walk here in this wonderful earth that the Lord has given to us. Therefore, we cannot always live in exalted meditation; perhaps a Saint on the last step of his earthly pilgrimage could reach this point, but we normally live with our feet on the ground and our eyes turned to Heaven. Both these things are given to us by the Lord and therefore loving human things, loving the beauties of this earth, is not only very human but also very Christian and truly Catholic. I would say - and it seems to me that I have already mentioned this earlier - that this aspect is also part of a good and truly Catholic pastoral care: living in the "et et"; living the humanity and humanism of the human being, all the gifts which the Lord has lavished upon us and which we have developed; and at the same time, not forgetting God, because ultimately, the great light comes from God and then it is only from him that comes the light which gives joy to all these aspects of the things that exist. Therefore, I would simply like to commit myself to the great Catholic synthesis, to this "et et"; to be truly human. And each person, in accordance with his or her own gifts and charism, should not only love the earth and the beautiful things the Lord has given us, but also be grateful because God's light shines on earth and bathes everything in splendour and beauty. In this regard, let us live catholicity joyfully. This would be my answer. (Applause)

I am Fr Arnaldo. Holy Father, pastoral and ministerial requirements in addition to the reduced number of priests impel our Bishops to review the distribution of clergy, resulting in an accumulation of tasks for one priest as well as responsibility for more than one parish. This closely affects many communities of the baptized and requires that we priests - priests and lay people - live and exercise the pastoral ministry together. How is it possible to live this change in pastoral organization, giving priority to the spirituality of the Good Shepherd? Thank you, Your Holiness.

Benedict XVI: Yes, let us return to this question of pastoral priorities and how to be a parish priest today. A little while ago, a French Bishop who was a Religious and so had never been a parish priest, said to me: "Your Holiness, I would like you to explain to me what a parish priest is. In France we have these large pastoral units covering five, six or seven parishes and the parish priest becomes a coordinator of bodies, of different initiatives". But it seemed to him, since he was so busy coordinating the different bodies he was obliged to deal with, that he no longer had the possibility of a personal encounter with his sheep. Since he was a Bishop, hence, the Pastor of a large parish, he wondered if this system were right or whether we ought to rediscover a possibility for the parish priest to be truly a parish priest, hence, pastor of his flock. I could not, of course, come up with the recipe for an instant solution to the situation in France, but the problem in general is: to ensure that, despite the new situations and new forms of responsibility, the parish priest does not forfeit his closeness to the people, his truly being in person the shepherd of this flock entrusted to him by the Lord. Situations are not the same: I am thinking of the Bishops in their dioceses with widely differing situations; they must see clearly how to ensure that the parish priest continues to be a pastor and does not become a holy bureaucrat. In any case, I think that a first opportunity in which we can be present for the people entrusted to us is precisely the sacramental life. In the Eucharist we are together and can and must meet one another; the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is a very personal encounter; Baptism is a personal encounter and not only the moment of the conferral of the Sacrament. I would say that all these sacraments have a context of their own: baptizing entails offering the young family a little catechesis, speaking to them so that Baptism may also become a personal encounter and an opportunity for a very concrete catechesis. Preparation for First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage is likewise always an opportunity for the parish priest, the priest, to meet people personally; he is the preacher and administrator of the sacraments in a way that always involves the human dimension. A sacrament is never merely a ritual act, but the ritual and sacramental act strengthens the human context in which the priest or parish priest acts. Furthermore, I think it very important to find the right ways to delegate. It is not right that the parish priest should only coordinate other bodies. Rather, he should delegate in various ways, and obviously at Synods - and here in this Diocese you have had the Synod - a way is found to free the parish priest sufficiently. This should be done in such a way that on the one hand he retains responsibility for the totality of pastoral units entrusted to him. He should not be reduced to being mainly and above all a coordinating bureaucrat. On the contrary, he should be the one who holds the essential reins himself but can also rely on collaborators. I believe that this is one of the important and positive results of the Council: the co-responsibility of the entire parish, for the parish priest is no longer the only one to animate everything. Since we all form a parish together, we must all collaborate and help so that the parish priest is not left on his own, mainly as a coordinator, but truly discovers that he is a pastor who is backed up in these common tasks in which, together, the parish lives and is fulfilled. Thus, I would say that, on the one hand, this coordination and vital responsibility for the whole parish, and on the other, the sacramental life and preaching as a centre of parish life, could also today, in circumstances which are of course more difficult, make it possible to be a parish priest who may not know each person by name, as the Lord says of the Good Shepherd, but one who really knows his sheep and is really their pastor who calls and guides them.

I am asking the last question and I am very tempted to keep quiet for it is a small question, Your Holiness, and after you have nine times found the way to speak to us of God and so exalt us, I feel that what I am about to ask you is trivial and poor, as it were; yet I shall do so! Just a word for those of my generation who trained during the years of the Council and set out with enthusiasm and perhaps also the ambition to change the world. We worked very hard and today we are in a somewhat tricky position because we are worn out, many of our dreams failed to come true and we feel somewhat lonely. The oldest say to us, "You see, we were right to have been more prudent"; and the younger ones sometimes taunt us for being "nostalgic for the Council". This is our question: Can we still bring a gift to our Church, especially with that attachment to people which we feel has marked us? Please help us to recover our hope and serenity.

Benedict XVI: Thank you. This is an important question with which I am well acquainted. I also lived at the time of the Council. I was in St Peter's Basilica with great enthusiasm and saw new doors opening. It really seemed to be the new Pentecost in which the Church could once again convince humanity, after the world had distanced itself from the Church in the 18th and 19th centuries; it seemed that the Church and the world were meeting again and that a Christian world and a Church of the world, truly open to the world, were being born anew. We had so many hopes but in fact things turned out to be more difficult. However, the great legacy of the Council which opened up a new road endures; it is still a magna carta of the Church's journey, very essential and fundamental. Why did this happen? Perhaps I would like to begin with a historical observation. A post-conciliar period is almost always very difficult. The important Council of Nicea - which for us really is the foundation of our faith, in fact, we confess the faith formulated at Nicea - did not lead to a situation of reconciliation and unity as Constantine, who organized this great Council, had hoped. It was followed instead by a truly chaotic situation of in-fighting. In his book on the Holy Spirit, St Basil compares the situation of the Church subsequent to the Council of Nicea to a naval battle at night in which no one recognizes the other but everyone fights everyone else. It really was a situation of total chaos: thus, St Basil painted in strong colours the drama of the post-conciliar period, the aftermath of Nicea. Fifty years later, for the First Council of Constantinople, the Emperor invited St Gregory of Nazianzus to take part in the Council. St Gregory answered: "No. I will not come because I know these things, I know that all Councils produce nothing but confusion and fighting so I shall not be coming". And he did not go. Thus, in retrospect, today is not as great a surprise as it would have been at the outset for us all to digest the Council, its important message. To integrate it in the Church's life, to accept it so that it may become the life of the Church, to assimilate it in the various milieus of the Church, means suffering. And it is only in suffering that growth is achieved. Growing always brings suffering because it means emerging from one stage and moving on to the next; and we must note that in the concrete post-conciliar period there are two great historical caesurae. In the post-conciliar period, we had the pause in 1968, the beginning or "explosion" - I would dare to call it - of the great cultural crisis of the West. The post-war generation had come to an end. This was the generation that, after all the destruction and seeing the horrors of war and fighting and noting the tragedy of the great ideologies which truly led people to the brink of war, rediscovered the Christian roots of Europe. And we had begun to rebuild Europe with these lofty inspirations. However, once this generation had disappeared, all the failures, the shortcomings in this reconstruction and the widespread poverty in the world became visible. Thus, the crisis in Western culture, I would call it a cultural revolution that wanted radical change, burst out. It was saying: in 2,000 years of Christianity, we have not created a better world. We must start again from zero in an entirely new way. Marxism seems to be the scientific recipe for creating a new world at last. And in this - we said - serious clash between the new and healthy modernity desired by the Council and the crisis of modernity, everything becomes difficult, just as it was after the First Council of Nicea. Some were of the opinion that this cultural revolution was what the Council desired. They identified this new Marxist cultural revolution with the Council's intentions. This faction said: "This is the Council. Literally, the texts are still somewhat antiquated but this is the spirit behind the written words, this is the will of the Council, this is what we have to do". On the other hand, however, was a reaction that said: "This is the way to destroy the Church". This reaction - let us say - was utterly opposed to the Council, the anti-conciliar approach and - let us say - the timid, humble effort to achieve the true spirit of the Council. And as a proverb says: "If a tree falls it makes a great crash, but if a forest grows nothing can be heard for a silent process is happening". Thus, in the din of an anti-Council sentiment and erroneous progressivism, the journey of the Church silently gathered momentum, with great suffering and great losses, as she built up a new cultural process. Then came the second phase in 1989 - the collapse of the Communist regimes; but the response was not a return to the faith as one might have expected. It was not the rediscovery that the Church herself, with the authentic Council, had come up with the answer. The response instead was the total scepticism of so-called "post-modernity". It held that nothing is true, that everyone must live as best he can. Materialism gained ground, a pseudo-rationalist, blind scepticism that led to drugs and ended in all the problems we know. Once again, it closed the ways to faith because it was something so simple and so obvious. No, there was nothing true about it. The truth is intolerant, we cannot take this route. Here, in the contexts of these two cultural ruptures: the first, the cultural revolution of 1968 and the second, the collapse, we might call it, into nihilism after 1989, the Church humbly set out among the afflictions of the world and the glory of the Lord. On this path we must grow, patiently, and must now learn in a new way what it means to give up triumphalism. The Council had said that triumphalism should be given up - and was thinking of the baroque, of all these great cultures of the Church. People said: Let us begin in a new and modern way. But another triumphalism had developed, that of thought: we now do things, we have found our way, and on this path we will find the new world. Yet, the humility of the Cross, of the Crucified One, excludes this same triumphalism. We must renounce the triumphalism which holds that the great Church of the future is now truly being born. Christ's Church is always humble and in this very way is great and joyful. It seems to me very important that our eyes are now open and can see all that is positive which developed in the period subsequent to the Council: in the renewal of the liturgy, in the Synods, the Roman Synods, the universal Synods, the diocesan synods, the parish structures, in collaboration, in the new responsibility of lay people, in the great intercultural and intercontinental co-responsibility, in a new experience of the Church's catholicity, of the unanimity that grows in humility and yet is the true hope of the world. Thus, I think we have to rediscover the Council's great legacy. It is not a spirit reconstructed from texts but consists of the great Council texts themselves, reinterpreted today with the experiences we have had which have borne fruit in so many movements and so many new religious communities. I went to Brazil knowing that the sects were spreading and that the Catholic Church there seemed somewhat fossilized; but once I arrived there, I saw that a new religious community is born in Brazil almost every day, a new movement is born. Not only are the sects growing, the Church is growing with new situations full of vitality, not in order to complete the statistics - this is a false hope, statistics are not our god - but these situations are growing in souls and create the joy of faith, the presence of the Gospel; consequently, they are also creating a true development of the world and of society. It seems to me, therefore, that we must combine the great humility of the Crucified One, of a Church which is always humble and always opposed by the great economic and military powers, etc., but with this humility we must also learn the true triumphalism of catholicity that develops in all the centuries. Today too, the presence of the Crucified and Risen One, who has preserved his wounds, is increasing. He is wounded but it is in this way that he renews the world and gives his breath which also renews the Church, despite all our poverty. And I would say that it is in this combination of the humility of the Cross and the joy of the Risen Lord, who in the Council gave us a great signpost for our journey, that we can go ahead joyously and full of hope.


At the end of these two weeks spent in the beautiful Dolomites, I can only say thank you from my heart to each and every one of you for your service and commitment.

Your silent, discrete and competent presence, day and night, has given me the space for a time of unforgettable rest, rest for the body and soul.

In the Book of Psalms we read: "Your goodness, Lord, surrounds me like everlasting mountains". And we are surrounded by this visible, divine goodness in the beauty of the mountain.

But during all this time I have above all been surrounded by human goodness, by your goodness, which has always accompanied me. For me, you have really been invisible "guardian angels', silent but ever present, ready; and in my memory remains the memory of your presence in these days.

TO THE COMMUNITY OF CASTEL GANDOLFO Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo Friday, 27 July 2007

Dear Friends,

I had a beautiful vacation in the land of the Dolomites, but now I am happy to be here again at Castel Gandolfo, which is a second home for me.

I always feel at home here at Castel Gandolfo because I am surrounded by your friendship and hospitality.

I hope we will see each other this Sunday for the recitation of the Angelus.

I wish you a good week, a good Saturday and good vacations. Good-bye.

August 2007


Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear young Madrileños,

I receive you today with great joy, dear young people who have been taking part in the "Youth Mission" of the Archdiocese of Madrid and the Dioceses of this Ecclesiastical Province. You have come here accompanied by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, whom I thank for his friendly words on behalf of his Auxiliary Bishops and the Bishops of Getafe and Alcalá de Henares and, of course, of you all.

You have desired to express your affection to the Pope, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, as well as your commitment of unselfish service to the Church of Jesus Christ. I offer you my most cordial welcome.

I thank you for coming here in such large numbers, and especially for all you are doing as the fruit of this intense ecclesial experience, as well as for the faith you are living in practice. Some of you have already given sincere witness to it, which particularly interests me.

I have appreciated the intensity of your missionary experience and the tone acquired by certain facets of life when the decision is made to proclaim Christ: the enthusiasm of finding out and learning with surprise that contrary to what many think, the Gospel is deeply attractive to youth; the discovery of the full breadth of the ecclesial meaning of Christian life; the finesse and beauty of love and a family lived before God's eyes, or the discovery of an unexpected call to serve him without reserve by consecrating oneself to the priestly ministry.

In visiting the places where Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel and gave their lives for the Lord, and where many others were also persecuted and martyred at the dawn of the Church, you have been able to understand better why faith in Jesus Christ, in opening horizons to a new life, authentic freedom and boundless hope, needs the impetus that stems from a heart generously given to God and a courageous witness to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Just as it happened here in Rome many centuries ago, in an environment in which Christ, the one Saviour of the human race and of the world, was denied, so it always happens and happens today too, when you see around you many people who have forgotten him or want nothing to do with him, blinded by the numerous transient dreams that promise many things but leave the heart empty.

I encourage you to persevere on the path on which you have set out, letting your Pastors guide you, collaborating with them in the thrilling task of bringing to your peers the indescribable good fortune to know that they are loved by God, the one love that never lets us down and never dies.

Do not cease to cultivate your own personal encounter with Christ, to keep him ever at the centre of your heart, since in this way your life will be converted into a mission; you will let Christ who lives in you shine forth.

As young people, you are on the verge of deciding on your future. Are you doing so in the light of Christ, asking him, "What do you want of me?" Are you following the path he points out to you with generosity and confidence, knowing that as baptized people we are all, without exception, called to holiness and to be living members of the Church on whatever path we take in life?

The Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of the Church, was presented by the Second Vatican Council as "a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Church's apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated" (Lumen Gentium LG 65).

May her maternal intercession accompany you and make you faithful to the commitments which, docile to the Holy Spirit, you have assumed for the glory of God and the good of your brothers and sisters. May the Apostolic Blessing which I impart to you with affection also be a help to you.

Thank you very much for visiting me.


PRAYER VIGIL WITH YOUNG PEOPLE Plain of Montorso Saturday, 1 September 2007

Speeches 2005-13 25067