Speeches 2005-13 27107
I am pleased to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ecuador to the Holy See. As I offer you my cordial welcome at this solemn ceremony, I would like once again to express the sincere affection I feel for all the sons and daughters of this noble Nation.
I am grateful for the respectful greeting that Mr Rafael Correa Delgado, the Constitutional President, has graciously offered me as well as for his kind words for this Apostolic See and for myself, which also testify to the filial sentiments of the Ecuadorean People. I therefore ask you kindly to convey my sincere gratitude to him.
During my visit to Ecuador in 1978 as Pope John Paul II's Representative, I had the opportunity to meet a people peaceful, simple and hospitable, but above all deeply rooted in the Christian faith, which, as you emphasized in your discourse, has yielded abundant fruit in various generations. In this context I would like to recall St Marianita of Jesus and especially the young lay woman, Bl. Narcisa of Jesus, so dear to the faithful people who hope she will be canonized soon.
In their Saints the Christian faithful discover the ripe fruit of a faith that has marked their history. This patrimony is passed on down the centuries with various expressions in popular piety and art, together with the moral, civic and social values of their national identity.
Humanity today is facing new prospects of freedom and hope that are often disturbed by unstable political situations and the consequences of weak social structures. Moreover, the interdependence between States is constantly increasing. It is therefore necessary and urgent to work for the construction of an internal and international order that furthers peaceful coexistence, cooperation, respect for human rights and, first and foremost, recognition of the central place of the person and of his or her inviolable dignity.
In this regard and thinking of the numerous Ecuadoreans who emigrate to other countries in difficult conditions in search of a better future for themselves and their families, we cannot forget that: "Love - caritas - will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such" (Deus Caritas Est ). Thus, it is love, as a generous gift of oneself to others, which gives rise and continues to give rise to this network of educational, social, promotional and developmental institutions which do honour to the Church and to Ecuadorean society.
The Catholic Church, which through her pastoral ministry and "by her nature and mission... is universal in that she is not committed to any one culture or to any political, economic or social system" (Gaudium et Spes GS 42), makes an important contribution to the common good of the Country. Hence, it is considered necessary to promote and strengthen the area of her freedom, recognized in the constitutional and legal texts of Ecuador. Thus, it is likewise to be hoped that the new constitutional order will contemplate the broadest possible guarantees for the religious freedom of Ecuadoreans so that the Nation can rely on a legal framework in conformity with the context and the international Agreements.
In addition to being an inalienable right, the Church's freedom of action is the fundamental condition for completing her mission among the people, even in difficult circumstances. Therefore, "we do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces" (Deus Caritas Est ).
Moreover, the aspiration to a democratic government committed to promoting a culture of respect and equality before the law and an exemplary exercise of authority that aims to serve the whole people could not be otherwise. For all these reasons, the Ecuadorean Government has expressed its determination to give priority to assisting the most deprived, drawing inspiration from the Church's social teaching. It is to be hoped, then, that citizens may enjoy all the rights, observing the corresponding duties, and thus obtain a better standard of living and easier access to dignified housing and employment, to education and to health care, with full respect for life from its conception to its natural end.
Mr Ambassador, before concluding this meeting, I would like to express my best wishes for the happy accomplishment of your lofty mission. May it contribute to reinforcing the traditional bonds of dialogue and cooperation between Ecuador and the Holy See, as I ask you kindly to convey my sentiments to your Government and to the other national Authorities. At the same time, I remember in my prayers the beloved Ecuadorean People and implore from the Most High an abundance of Blessings upon Ecuador, upon you, upon your distinguished family and all those who work with you.
Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 27 October 2007
Honourable Mr President,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Professor Gruber,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
After this moving musical event I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who contributed to its realization. In the first place, of course, I thank the Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of Bavarian Radio together with the excellent soloists and their expert Conductor Mariss Jansons. The sensitive and involving interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - a further proof of their exceptional talent - will re-echo within me for a long time and will live on in my memory as a special present. However, I would also like to thank them for the excellent performance of "Tu es Petrus" that was composed here in Rome for St Peter's Basilica and is one of the great works of choral literature. Lastly, I thank Cardinal Friedrich Wetter and Prof. Thomas Gruber for the kind and profound words with which they have, so to speak, "delivered" the gift of this concert.
The Ninth Symphony, this impressive masterpiece which - as you said, dear Cardinal - belongs to the universal patrimony of humanity, stirs me ever anew to wonder. After years of inner isolation and a withdrawn life in which Beethoven had to combat the internal and external difficulties that caused him depression and profound bitterness and threatened to stifle his artistic creativity, the composer, by then totally deaf, amazed the public in 1824 with a composition that broke with the traditional form of the symphony and with the cooperation of orchestra, choir and soloists, rose to an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy. What had happened?
The music itself allows attentive listeners to guess something of what was at the root of this unexpected explosion of joy. The overwhelming sentiment of jubilation transformed into music here is far from trivial or superficial: it is a sentiment won with effort, overcoming the inner emptiness of someone whom deafness had forced into isolation - the empty fifths at the beginning of the first movement and the constant bursting in of a gloomy atmosphere are an expression of it.
Silent loneliness, however, had taught Beethoven a new way of listening which went far beyond the mere ability to hear in his imagination the sound of the notes that he read or wrote. In this context, a mysterious saying of the Prophet Isaiah springs to my mind in which, speaking of a victory of truth and righteousness, he said: "In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see" (cf. 29: 18-24). Mention is thus made of a perceptiveness that those who obtain the grace of external and internal liberation receive from God as a gift.
When in 1989, the Choir and Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio were performing the symphony we have just heard, conducted by Leonard Bernstein on the occasion of the "fall of the [Berlin] wall", they changed the text of the "Ode to Joy" to "Freedom, beautiful spark of God", thereby expressing more than the simple sentiment of the historic moment: true joy is rooted in that freedom which, basically, God alone can give. He wants to make us - sometimes through periods of emptiness and inner isolation - attentive and capable of "hearing" his silent presence not only "above the star-strewn vault", but in the innermost depths of our soul. It is here that the spark of divine love glows that can set us free for what we truly are.
With a heartfelt "Vergelt's Gott", a warm "thank you", I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.
I am happy to welcome you, members of the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, on the occasion of your 25th Congress, whose theme is: "The new boundaries of the pharmaceutical act".
The current development of an arsenal of medicines and the resulting possibilities for treatment oblige pharmacists to reflect on the ever broader functions they are called to fulfil, particularly as intermediaries between doctor and patient; they have an educational role with patients to teach them the proper dosage of their medication and especially to acquaint them with the ethical implications of the use of certain drugs. In this context, it is not possible to anaesthetize consciences, for example, concerning the effects of particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to shorten a person's life. The pharmacist must invite each person to advance humanity, so that every being may be protected from the moment of conception until natural death, and that medicines may fulfil properly their therapeutic role. No person, moreover, may be used thoughtlessly as an object for the purpose of therapeutic experimentation; therapeutic experimentation must take place in accordance with protocols that respect fundamental ethical norms. Every treatment or process of experimentation must be with a view to possible improvement of the person's physical condition and not merely seeking scientific advances. The pursuit of good for humanity cannot be to the detriment of people undergoing treatment. In the moral domain, your Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia.
It would also be advisable that the different pharmaceutical structures, laboratories at hospital centres and surgeries, as well as our contemporaries all together, be concerned with showing solidarity in the therapeutic context, to make access to treatment and urgently needed medicines available at all levels of society and in all countries, particularly to the poorest people.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, may you as Catholic pharmacists find in the life of faith and in the Church's teaching elements that will guide you in your professional approach to the sick, who are in need of human and moral support if they are to live with hope and find the inner resources that will help them throughout their lives. It is also your duty to help young people who enter the different pharmaceutical professions to reflect on the increasingly delicate ethical implications of their activities and decisions. To this end, it is important that all Catholic health-care professionals and people of good will join forces to deepen their formation, not only at a technical level but also with regard to bioethical issues, as well as to propose this formation to the profession as a whole. The human being, because he or she is the image of God, must always be the centre of research and choices in the biomedical context. At the same time, the natural principle of the duty to provide care for the sick person is fundamental. The biomedical sciences are at the service of the human being; if this were not the case, they would have a cold and inhuman character. All scientific knowledge in the health sector and every therapeutic procedure is at the service of the sick person, viewed in his integral being, who must be an active partner in his treatment and whose autonomy must be respected.
As I entrust you as well as the sick people you are called to treat to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Albert the Great, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your Federation and your families.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Welcome and thank you for coming to visit me. You come from the five continents and belong to The New Families Movement which came into being 40 years ago in the context of the Focolare Movement. You are thus a branch of Focolare and today form a network of at least 800,000 families working in 182 nations, all committed to making their home a "focolare" [hearth] which radiates in the world the witness of a Gospel-style family life. I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting, which I extend also to those who have wished to accompany you at our meeting. I greet in a special way your leaders who have conveyed your common sentiments and described to me your Movement's working methods as well as its goals. I thank you for the greetings you have brought me from Chiara Lubich, to whom I send my warm good wishes, thanking her because she continues to guide the large family of the Focolare with wisdom and unswerving attachment to the Church.
As has just been recalled, it is precisely in the context of this vast and praiseworthy institution that you, dear married couples, place yourselves at the service of the world of families with an important and ever timely pastoral action that has four orientations: spirituality, education, sociability and solidarity. Your task is effectively a silent and deep commitment to evangelization with the goal of testifying that only family unity, a gift of God-Love, can make the family a true nest of love, a home that welcomes life and a school of virtue and Christian values for children. As you confront the many social and economic, cultural and religious issues that challenge contemporary society in every part of the world, your work, truly providential, is a sign of hope and an encouragement for Christian families to be a privileged "space" where the beauty of making Jesus Christ the focus and of faithfully following his Gospel is proclaimed in everyday life, sometimes despite many difficulties. Indeed, your meeting's theme: "A house built on the rock - the Gospel lived, a response to the problems of families today", emphasizes the importance of this ascetical and pastoral itinerary. The secret is precisely to live the Gospel!
Rightly, therefore, in the work of the assembly during these days, in addition to contributions that illustrate the situation of today's families in the different cultural contexts, you have planned to deepen your knowledge of the Word of God and to hear the testimonies that show how the Holy Spirit acts in hearts and in family life, even in complex and difficult situations. Only think of the uncertainties of engaged couples as they face definitive decisions for the future, of the crisis of couples, of separations and divorces as well as irregular unions, of the condition of widows, of families in difficulty and of welcoming abandoned minors. I warmly hope that also thanks to your commitment, pastoral strategies may be identified to cope with the increasing needs of families today and the multiple challenges that face them, so that they will not fail in their special mission in the Church and in society.
In this regard, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, my venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II noted that the Church maintains that for the faithful, "the first and basic expression of the social dimension... is the married couple and the family" (n. 40). To bring this vocation to fruition, the family, aware that it is the primary cell of society, must not forget that it can find strength in a Sacrament desired by Christ to reinforce the love between man and woman: a love understood as a gift of self, reciprocal and profound. As John Paul II likewise observed: "The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church, his Bride" (Familiaris Consortio FC 17). Thus, according to the divine plan, the family is a sacred and sanctifying place and the Church, which has always been close to the family, supports it in this mission, especially today when the internal and external threats to it are so numerous. In order not to succumb to discouragement, divine help is essential; thus, every Christian family must look with trust to the Holy Family, the original "domestic Church" in which "through God's mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families" (ibid., n. 86).
Dear brothers and sisters, the humble and holy Family of Nazareth, the icon and model of every human family, will not let you go without its heavenly support. Nonetheless, your ceaseless recourse to prayer, to listening to the Word of God and to an intense sacramental life is indispensable, together with a constant effort to live Christ's commandment of love and forgiveness. Love does not seek its own interests, it does not harbour rancour for evil received but rejoices in truth. Love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1Co 13,5-7). Dear brothers and sisters, continue your journey and be witnesses of this Love which will make you increasingly the "heart" and "leaven" of the entire New Families Movement.I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for each one of you, for your activities and all those you meet in your apostolate, and with affection I now impart to you all the Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Young Friends of FUCI,
This visit you are making at the conclusion of the 110th anniversary celebrations of the birth of your Association, FUCI, the Italian Catholic University Federation, is particularly welcome. I address to each one of you my cordial greeting, beginning with the National Presidents and the Prime Ecclesial Assistants, and I thank them for the words they addressed to me in your name. I greet Bishop Giuseppe Betori, General Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina and Assistant General Chaplain of the Italian Catholic Action, who have accompanied you to this Audience and whose presence witnesses to how strongly FUCI is rooted in the Church in Italy. I greet the diocesan Chaplains and the members of the FUCI Foundation. To each one of you I renew the Church's appreciation for the work your Association does in the university world at the service of the Gospel.
FUCI is celebrating its 110 years: a fitting occasion to review the ground covered and its future prospects. Safeguarding the historic memory is valuable because, by considering the validity and consistency of its own roots, it is more enthusiastic in continuing the itinerary begun. On this joyful occasion, I willingly take up the words that approximately 10 years ago my Venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II addressed to you on the occasion of your centenary: "The history of the past 100 years", he said, "actually confirms that the FUCI experience is a significant chapter of the Church's life in Italy, especially of that vast and multiform lay movement which found in Catholic Action its main support" (Discourse, 29 April 1996; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 22 May, n. 3, p. 4).
How can one fail to recognize that FUCI has contributed to the formation of entire generations of exemplary Christians, who have been able to transform the Gospel into life and with life, committing themselves on the cultural, civil, social and ecclesial levels? I am thinking in the first place of the young Blesseds Piergiorgio Frassati and Alberto Marvelli. I recall illustrious personalities like Aldo Moro and Vittorio Bachelet, both barbarously assassinated. Nor can I forget my Venerable Predecessor Paul VI, who was an attentive and courageous General Ecclesial Chaplain of FUCI in the difficult years of Fascism, and also Bishop Emilio Guano and Bishop Franco Costa. Moreover, the recent 10 years have been characterized by FUCI's decisive commitment to rediscover its true university dimension. After several debates and heated discussions, Italy began during the mid-'90s a radical reform of its academic system, which now presents a new profile, rich in promising perspectives, combined, however, with elements that raise legitimate concern. And you, both at the recent Congresses and on the pages of the Ricerca journal, are constantly concerned with the new configuration of academic studies, the relative legislative modifications, the topic of student participation and the ways in which the global dynamics of communication affect formation and the transmission of knowledge.
It is precisely in this environment that FUCI can fully express even today its original and ever-current charism: the convinced witness of the "possible friendship" between intelligence and faith, which implies the ceaseless effort to unite maturation in faith with growth in studies and the acquisition of scientific knowledge. In this context the expression so dear to you, "To believe in study" is meaningful. In effect, why should one who holds the faith renounce the freedom to seek the truth, and why should one who freely seeks the truth renounce the faith? Instead, it is possible, precisely during the university years and thanks to them, to realize an authentic human, scientific and spiritual maturation. "To believe in study" means to recognize that study and research - especially during the university years - have an intrinsic power to widen the horizons of human intelligence, as long as academic study remains demanding, rigorous, serious, methodical and progressive. Indeed, on these conditions, it represents an advantage for the global formation of the human person, as Bl. Giuseppe Tovini used to say, observing that with study young people would never have been poor, while without study they would never have been rich.
At the same time, study constitutes a providential opportunity to advance on the journey of faith, because a well-cultivated intelligence opens the heart of man to listen to the voice of God, emphasizing the importance of discernment and humility. I referred precisely to the value of humility at the recent Agorà [meeting] at Loreto, when I exhorted Italian youth not to follow the dictates of pride, but rather, the realistic sense of life open to the transcendent dimension. Today, as in the past, whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ is called to go against the tide, not to be attracted by the interesting and persuasive appeals which come from various platforms that propagandize behaviour marked by arrogance and violence, presumption and gaining success by every means. Contemporary society is marked by such an unbridled race for appearances and possessions and unfortunately to the detriment of being, and the Church, expert in humanity, does not tire to exhort especially the young generations to which you belong, to remain vigilant and not to be afraid to choose "alternative" ways that only Christ can indicate.
Yes, dear friends, Jesus summons all his friends to characterize their existence by a sober, solidary way of life, to weave sincere and free emotional relationships with others. He asks you, dear young students, to commit yourselves honestly to study, cultivating a mature sense of responsibility and a shared interest in the common good. The university years are therefore a training ground for convinced and courageous Gospel witness. To accomplish your mission, seek to cultivate an intimate friendship with the divine Teacher, placing yourself at the school of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. I entrust you to her maternal intercession and, while I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I warmly impart to all with affection a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and loved ones.
Beloved Portuguese Bishops,
It is a great joy for me to receive you today in the House of Peter, who by the grace of God are solid pillars of that bridge which you are called to be and to create between humanity and its supreme destiny, the Most Holy Trinity. Eight years after your last ad limina visit, you find Peter has a different face but not the heart nor the arms that welcome you and confirm you in the power of God that sustains us and makes us brothers in Christ the Lord: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you" (1P 1,2). I greet you all with these words of welcome, thanking the President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Jorge Ortiga, for the picture presented of the life and situation of your Dioceses and for the devout sentiments expressed to me in the name of all and which I reciprocate with warm affection and the assurance of my prayers for you and those entrusted to your pastoral solicitude.
Beloved Bishops of Portugal, you have passed through the Holy Door of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 at the head of the pilgrimage of your diocesan faithful, inviting them to enter and to remain in Christ as the House of their most profound and authentic desires, or rather, the House of God, and to take stock of how far such desires have already become reality or to what point everyone's life and being incarnates the Word of God, following the example of St Paul who said: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Ga 2,20). A concrete sign of this incarnation is the pouring out of Christ's life which flows forth from me into the lives of others. This is because, "I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own.... We become "one body', completely joined in a single existence" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, n. 14). This "body" of Christ that embraces the humanity of all times and places is the Church. St Ambrose saw its prefiguration in that "holy ground" indicated by God to Moses: "Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (Ex 3,5); and there, later, he was ordered: "But you, stand here by me" (Dt 5,31). The Holy Bishop of Milan makes this command a reality for the faithful in these terms: "You remain with me (with God) if you remain in the Church.... Therefore, remain in the Church; remain where I appeared to you; there I am with you. Where the Church is, there you find the strongest support for your mind; where I appeared to you in the burning bush, there is the foundation of your soul. "In fact, I appear to you in the Church, like in the past in the burning bush. You are the bush, I am the fire; fire in the bush, I am in your flesh. This is why I am the fire; to enlighten you, to destroy your thorns, your sins, and to show you my kindness" (cf. Epistulae Extra Collectionem: Ep 14,41-42). These words clearly convey the way of life and the appeal left by God to the pilgrims of the Great Jubilee.
In this moment, I wish to give thanks to Christ the Lord together with you for the great mercy he has for his pilgrim Church in Portugal in the days of the Holy Year and in the following years permeated by this same Jubilee spirit, which allowed you to see, without fear, the limits and failings that have left you without bread and ready to begin the return journey to the Father's House, where there is plentiful bread. In fact, one feels the same Jubilee climate lasting in numerous initiatives that you began in these recent years: the general census of the Sunday obligation; taking up the synodal journey begun or still to begin; the convocation in various Dioceses of the Eucharistic statio or of the general mission according to new and ancient methods; the establishment of the national meeting of movements and new ecclesial communities and of the family congress; the will to serve humanity expressed by the Church and the State in a new Agreement; the proclamation of exemplary holiness in the persons of the new Blesseds.... In this long pilgrimage, the most frequent observation on the lips of Christians has been the lack of participation in the life of the community, and the proposal to find new forms of integration in the community. The password has been, and is, to build roads of communion. It is necessary to change the organizational style of the Portuguese Ecclesial Community and the mentality of its members so as to have a Church in harmony with the Second Vatican Council, in which the function of the clergy and the laity is well-defined, taking into account the fact that we are all one by Baptism and integrated into the family of the sons of God, and we are all co-responsible for the growth of the Church.
This ecclesiology of communion is a path opened by the Council to which the Portuguese Church has particularly felt called in the wake of the Great Jubilee. It is, my beloved Brothers, the sure route to follow, without losing sight of possible pitfalls, such as horizontalism at its source, democratic attribution of sacramental ministries, the balance between the Orders conferred and future service, the debate concerning which members of the community are first (a futile debate since the Lord Jesus has already decided it is the last). With this I do not mean to say that one must not discuss the correct ordering in the Church and on the attribution of responsibility: there will always be imbalances that demand correction. Similar questions cannot, however, distract us from the true mission of the Church: she must not speak primarily of herself, but of God. The essential elements of the Christian concept of "communion" are found in the text of the First Letter of St John: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1: 3). This is the high point, the start of communion: in the union of God with man, who is Christ in person; the encounter with Christ creates communion with him and, in him, with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Thus, we see, as I wrote in my first Encyclical, that: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person [Jesus Christ], which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (Deus Caritas Est ). The person's and the human community's evangelization depends absolutely on the existence or lack thereof of the encounter with Jesus Christ.
We know that the first encounter can cover a plurality of forms, as the lives of numerous Saints show (presenting them is part of evangelization, which must be accompanied by models of thought and conduct), but the person's Christian initiation normally passes through the Church: the divine economy of salvation asks it of the Church. The growing sea of non-practicing Christians in your Dioceses perhaps merits examining: "the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically Eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times" (Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 18).
Beloved Bishops of Portugal, four weeks ago you were gathered in the Shrine of Fatima with the Cardinal Secretary of State, who I sent there as my Special Envoy for the closing celebrations for the 90th anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady. I am pleased to think of Fatima as a school of faith with the Virgin Mary as the teacher; there she established her "chair" to teach the young visionaries, and then the multitudes, the eternal truths and the art of praying, believing and loving.
With the humble attitude of students who need to learn the lesson, entrust daily to the illustrious Teacher and the Mother of the whole Christ each one of you and your priests, your direct collaborators in the guidance of the flock, the consecrated men and women who anticipate Heaven on earth, and the faithful who model the earth on the image of Heaven. Imploring upon all, through the intercession of Nossa Senhora de Fátima, the light and power of the Spirit, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to welcome all of you, who ideally represent the vast and variegated world of Confraternities present in every region and diocese of Italy. I greet the Bishops who have accompanied you and in particular Bishop Armando Brambilla, Auxiliary of Rome and Delegate of the Italian Bishops' Conference for Confraternities and Sodalities, thanking him for the words that he has addressed to me in your name. I greet Dr Francesco Antonetti, President of the Confederation that brings together the Italian Confraternities, as well as the members of the Boards of Directors and Chaplains. You, dear friends, have come to St Peter's Square with your traditional garments that are reminiscent of your ancient Christian traditions well rooted in the People of God. Thank you for your visit, which wishes to be a choral manifestation of faith and at the same time a gesture that expresses filial attachment to the Successor of Peter.
How can I fail to recall immediately the importance and influence that Confraternities have exercised in the Christian community of Italy from the earliest centuries of the last Millennium? Many of them, raised up by zealous persons, quickly became aggregations of faithful laity dedicated to bringing to light some characteristics of popular religiosity linked to the life of Jesus Christ, especially his passion, death and Resurrection, to the devotion for the Virgin Mary and the Saints, almost always uniting concrete works of mercy and solidarity. Hence, from your origins, your Confraternities have distinguished themselves for their typical form of popular piety, to which many charitable initiatives toward the poor, the sick and the suffering are united, involving many volunteers of every social condition in this event of generous assistance to the needy. This spirit of fraternal charity can be better understood if one takes into account that they began to come about during the Middle Ages, when structured forms of public assistance that would guarantee social and health-care service for the weakest sector of society still did not exist. This situation began diminishing in successive centuries until, we could say, our days, when, although economic well-being has grown, still large areas of poverty have not disappeared and therefore, today as in the past, there is still much to do in the field of solidarity.
Confraternities are not, however, simple societies of mutual assistance or philanthropic associations, but a union of brethren who, wanting to live the Gospel in the awareness of putting into practice the commandment of love, are urged to open their hearts to others, especially those in difficulty. Evangelical love - love for God and for neighbour - is the distinctive sign and the life programme of every disciple of Christ and of each Ecclesial Community. In Sacred Scripture it is clear that love for God is strictly linked to love for neighbour (cf. Mc 12,29-31). "For the Church", I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (n. 25). To communicate to the brethren the providential tenderness of the Heavenly Father, however, it is necessary to draw from the source, which is God himself, thanks to prolonged periods of prayer, constant listening to his Word and an existence entirely centred in the Lord and nourished by the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
In the season of great changes that we are passing through, the Church in Italy also needs you, dear friends, to make the proclamation of Gospel charity reach everyone, travelling ancient and new paths. Rooted on the solid foundation of faith in Christ, with the striking variety of charisms and ecclesial vitality that distinguishes them, your meritorious Confraternities continue, therefore, to spread the message of salvation among people, working on the many frontiers of the new evangelization! You can bring your important mission to fulfilment if you always cultivate a profound love for the Lord and a docile obedience to your parish priests. Under these conditions, keeping the requisites of Gospel-fidelity and "ecclesiality" steadfast, your Confraternities will continue to be popular schools of lived faith and sources of holiness. They can continue to be Gospel "ferment" and "yeast" in society and contribute to rousing that spiritual awakening for which we all await.
Therefore, the field in which you must work is vast, and I encourage you to multiply the initiatives and activities of each of your Confraternities. I ask you above all to take care of your spiritual formation and to tend to holiness, following the examples of authentic Christian perfection who are not absent from the your Confraternities' history. Not a few of your brethren, with courage and great faith, have distinguished themselves in the course of the centuries as sincere and generous labourers of the Gospel, sometimes even to the sacrifice of their life. Follow in their footsteps! Today, it is still most necessary to cultivate a true ascetical and missionary impetus in order to face the many challenges of the modern age. May the Holy Virgin protect and guide you, and may your Patron Saints assist you from Heaven! With these sentiments I offer you present here and each Confraternity of Italy the wish of a fruitful apostolate and, while I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I warmly bless you all.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from the Indonesian Government and people, and I ask you kindly to convey my own greetings to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens.
Your Excellency has spoken of Indonesia’s commitment to pursue policies aimed at advancing the noble goals of democracy and social harmony enshrined in the Constitution and eloquently expressed in the national philosophy of Pancasila. This determination, which calls for sacrifice, resolute efforts to discern and promote the common good, and the cooperation of all political and social groups, is indispensable for overcoming the forces of polarization and conflict, carrying forward the renewal of economic life and consolidating a just democratic order in full respect for the rights of every individual and community.
Certainly at present one of the gravest threats to Indonesia’s cherished ideal of national unity is the phenomenon of international terrorism. I deeply appreciate your reaffirmation of the Government’s position of condemning terrorist violence, under whatever pretext it occurs, as a criminal offence which, by its contempt for human life and freedom, undermines the very foundations of society. This is particularly the case when the holy name of God is invoked as a justification for such acts. The Church at every level, in fidelity to the teaching of her Master, unequivocally condemns the manipulation of religion for political ends, while urging the application of international humanitarian law in every aspect of the fight against terrorism (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 14).
Indonesia, as a multi-religious country with the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, plays an important and positive role in promoting interreligious cooperation, both within its borders and in the international community. Dialogue, respect for the convictions of others, and collaboration in the service of peace are the surest means of securing social concord. These are among the noblest goals which can bring together men and women of good will, and, in a particular way, all those who worship the one God who is the Creator and beneficent Lord of the whole human family. A promising development in this regard is represented by the growing instances of cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, aimed particularly at the prevention of ethnic and religious conflicts in the most troubled areas.
Although Indonesia’s Catholics are a small minority, they desire to participate fully in the life of the nation, “to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony” (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps Attached to the Holy See, 8 January 2007). Through their network of educational and health care institutions, they seek to offer a significant service to their brothers and sisters, regardless of religion, and to instil the ethical values fundamental for authentic civic progress and peaceful coexistence. While their right to the free exercise of their religion in complete equality with their fellow citizens is guaranteed by the national Constitution, the protection of this fundamental human right calls for constant vigilance on the part of all. In this regard I note that Indonesia has recently acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and I am confident that this will help to further consolidate the freedom and legitimate autonomy of individual Christians and their institutions.
As Indonesia now sits as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, I take the present occasion to express my confidence that the principles which inspire your own national policies of pacification, dialogue and tolerance will enable Indonesia to make a fruitful contribution to the solution of global conflicts and the promotion of a peace based on international solidarity and concern for the integral development of individuals and peoples.
Your Excellency, as you undertake the mission of representing the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Indonesian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
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