Speeches 2005-13 18049


Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,
Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,

I am pleased to welcome you once again at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank Cardinal William Levada for his greeting and for his concise presentation of the theme that has been the object of attentive reflection at your meeting. You have gathered once again to study a very important topic: Inspiration and Truth of the Bible. This subject not only concerns theology, but the Church herself, because the life and mission of the Church are necessarily based on the word of God, which is the soul of theology and at the same time the inspiration of all Christian life. The topic you have addressed furthermore responds to a concern that I have very much at heart, because the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of capital importance for the Christian faith and for the life of the Church.

As you have mentioned, Cardinal President, in his Encyclical Providentissimus Deus Pope Leo XIII offered Catholic exegetes new encouragement and new directives on the subject of inspiration, truth and biblical hermeneutics. Later, Pius XII in his Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, gathered and completed the preceding teaching and urged Catholic exegetes to find solutions in full agreement with the Church's doctrine, duly taking into account the positive contributions of the new methods of interpretation which had developed in the meantime. The vigorous impetus that these two Pontiffs gave to biblical studies, as you also said, was fully confirmed and developed in the Second Vatican Council, so that the entire Church has benefited and is benefitting from it. In particular, the Conciliar Constitution Dei Verbum still illumines the work of Catholic exegetes today and invites Pastors and faithful to be more regularly nourished at the table of the word of God. In this regard the Council recalls first of all that God is the Author of Sacred Scripture: "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the Books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself" (Dei Verbum DV 11). Therefore since all that the inspired authors or hagiographers state is to be considered as said by the Holy Spirit, the invisible and transcendent Author, it must consequently be acknowledged that "the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures" (ibid., n. 11).

From the correct presentation of the divine inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture certain norms derive that directly concern its interpretation. The Constitution Dei Verbum itself, after stating that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in Sacred Scripture God speaks to man in a human fashion and this divine-human synergy is very important: God really speaks to men and women in a human way. For a correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture it is therefore necessary to seek attentively what the hagiographers have truly wished to state and what it has pleased God to express in human words. "The words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men" (Dei Verbum DV 13). Moreover, these indications, very necessary for a correct historical and literary interpretation as the primary dimension of all exegesis, require a connection with the premises of the teaching on the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. In fact, since Scripture is inspired, there is a supreme principal for its correct interpretation without which the sacred writings would remain a dead letter of the past alone: Sacred Scripture "must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind" (ibid., n. 12).

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council points out three criteria that always apply for an interpretation of Sacred Scripture in conformity with the Spirit that inspired it. First of all it is essential to pay great attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture: only in its unity is it Scripture. Indeed, however different the books of which it is composed may be, Sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God's plan whose centre and heart is Jesus Christ (cf. Lc 24,25-27 Lc 24,44-46). Secondly, Scripture must be interpreted in the context of the living tradition of the whole Church. According to a statement of Origen: "Sacra Scriptura principalius est in corde Ecclesiae quam in materialibus instrumentis scripta", that is, "Sacred Scripture is written in the heart of the Church before being written on material instruments". Indeed, in her Tradition the Church bears the living memory of the Word of God and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her its interpretation according to the spiritual meaning (cf. Origin, Homilae in Leviticum, 5,5). As a third criterion, it is necessary to pay attention to the analogy of the faith, that is to the consistence of the individual truths of faith with one another and with the overall plan of the Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy contained in it.

The task of researchers who study Sacred Scripture with different methods is to contribute in accordance with the above-mentioned principles to the deepest possible knowledge and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The scientific study of the sacred texts is important but is not sufficient in itself because it would respect only the human dimension. To respect the coherence of the Church's faith, the Catholic exegete must be attentive to perceiving the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church herself. If this indispensable reference point is missing, the exegetical research would be incomplete, losing sight of its principal goal, and risk being reduced to a purely literary interpretation in which the true Author God no longer appears. Furthermore, the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot only be an individual scientific effort but must always be compared with, inserted in and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This rule is decisive to explain the correct relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The Catholic exegete does not only feel that he or she belongs to the scientific community, but also and above all to the community of believers of all times. In reality these texts were not given to individual researchers or to the scientific community, "to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research" (Divino Afflante Spiritu, eb 566). The texts inspired by God were entrusted in the first place to the community of believers, to Christ's Church, to nourish the life of faith and to guide the life of charity. Respect for this purpose conditions the validity and efficacy of biblical hermeneutics. The Encyclical Providentissimus Deus recalled this fundamental truth and noted that, far from hindering biblical research, respect for this norm encourages authentic progress. I would say, a rationalistic hermeneutic of faith corresponds more closely with the reality of this text than a rationalistic hermeneutic that does not know God.

Being faithful to the Church means, in fact, fitting into the current of the great Tradition. Under the guidance of the Magisterium, Tradition has recognized the canonical writings as a word addressed by God to his People, and it has never ceased to meditate upon them and to discover their inexhaustible riches. The Second Vatican Council reasserted this very clearly: "all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God" (Dei Verbum DV 12). As the above-mentioned Dogmatic Constitution reminds us, an inseparable unity exists between Sacred Scripture and Tradition, because both come from the same source: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. He transmits it to the successors of the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal feelings of devotion and reverence" (Dei Verbum DV 9). As we know, this word "pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia" was created by St Basil and then absorbed into Gratian's Decree, through which it entered the Countil of Trent and then the Second Vatican Council. It expresses precisely this inter-penetration between Scripture and Tradition. The ecclesial context alone enables Sacred Scripture to be understood as an authentic Word of God which makes itself the guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of believers. As I have said, this is in no way an obstacle to a serious and scientific interpretation but furthermore gives access to the additional dimensions of Christ that are inaccessible to a merely literary analysis, which remains incapable of grasping by itself the overall meaning that has guided the Tradition of the entire People of God down the centuries.

Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, I would like to end my talk by expressing to you all my personal gratitude and encouragement. I thank you warmly for the demanding work you do at the service of the Word of God and of the Church through research, teaching and the publication of your studies. To this I add my encouragement for the ground that has yet to be covered. In a world in which scientific research is assuming ever greater importance in numerous fields, it is indispensable that exegetical science attain a good level. It is one of the aspects of the inculturation of the faith that is part of the Church's mission, in harmony with acceptance of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate and the divine Teacher who opened the minds of his disciples to an understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Lc 24,45), guide and sustain you in your reflection. May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to accept ever better the inexhaustible riches of Sacred Scripture, not only through intellectual research but also in your lives as believers, so that your work and your action may contribute to making the light of Sacred Scripture shine ever brighter before the faithful.
As I assure you of my prayerful support in your efforts, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, as a pledge of divine favours.

TO THE CATHOLIC RELIGION TEACHERS Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 25 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a real pleasure for me to meet you today and to share with you some reflections on your important presence in the panorama of school and culture and in the heart of the Christian community in Italy. I greet you all with affection, starting with Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, whom I thank for his courteous words on presenting to me this large and lively Assembly. I likewise address a cordial welcome to all the authorities present.

The teaching of the Catholic religion is an integral part of the history of schools in Italy and the religion teacher is a very important figure on the teaching staff. It is significant that so many children keep in touch with their teachers even after leaving school. Furthermore, the large number of those who choose to study this subject is a sign of its irreplaceable value in the educational process and proof of the high standard of quality it has attained. In a recent message, the Presidency of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) said that "the teaching of the Catholic religion encourages reflection on the deep meaning of life, helping people to rediscover, beyond individual forms of knowledge, a sense of unity and an overall intuition. This is possible because such teaching focuses on the human person and his or her inalienable dignity, letting itself be illuminated by the unique life of Jesus of Nazareth, whose identity it takes care to investigate. Thus for 2,000 years it has not ceased to call men and women into question".

Putting man created in the image of God at the centre (cf. Gn Gn 1,27) is in fact the distinctive mark of your daily work, in unity of intention with other educators and teachers. On the occasion of the Ecclesial Convention in Verona in October 2006, I myself had the opportunity to touch on the "fundamental and decisive question" of education, indicating the need "to enlarge the area of our rationality, to reopen it to the larger questions of the truth and the good, to link theology, philosophy and science between them in full respect for the methods proper to them and for their reciprocal autonomy, but also in the awareness of the intrinsic unity that holds them together" (Address to the participants in the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention, Verona, 19 October 2006). The religious dimension is in fact intrinsic to culture. It contributes to the overall formation of the person and makes it possible to transform knowledge into wisdom of life.

Your service, dear friends, fits precisely into this fundamental crossroads, in which without improper invasion or the confusion of roles the universal aspiration to truth and the 2,000-year-old testimony offered by believers in the light of faith converge, the extraordinary peaks of knowledge and art acquired by the human spirit and the fruitfulness of the Christian message that so deeply nourishes the culture and life of the Italian people. With the full and recognized scholastic dignity of your teaching, you contribute on the one hand to giving school a soul and, on the other, to assuring to the Christian faith full citizenship in the places of education and culture in general. Thanks to the teaching of the Catholic religion, school and society are enriched with true laboratories of culture and humanity in which, by deciphering the significant contribution of Christianity, the person is equipped to discover goodness and to grow in responsibility, to seek comparisons and to refine his or her critical sense, to draw from the gifts of the past to understand the present better and to be able to plan wisely for the future.

Today's meeting is also taking place in the context of the Pauline Year. The Apostle to the Gentiles continues to exercise great fascination on all of us. In him we recognize the humble and faithful disciple, the courageous herald, the gifted mediator of Revelation. These are characteristics to which I invite you to look to nourish your identity as educators and witnesses in the world of the school. It is Paul, in the First Letter to the Thessalonians (4: 9) who defines believers with the beautiful expression theodidaktoi, that is, "taught by God", who have God as teacher. In this word we find the secret of education itself, as St Augustine also recalls "We who speak and you who listen, recognize each other as faithful disciples of one Teacher (De serm. 23,2).

In addition, in the Pauline teaching religious formation is not separate from human formation. The last Letters of his correspondence, the so-called "pastoral" Letters, are full of significant references to the social and civil life that Christ's disciples must keep clearly in mind. St Paul is a true "teacher" who has at heart both the salvation of the person in whom has been inculcated a mentality of faith, and the person's human and civil formation, so that the disciple of Christ may express to the full a free personality, a human life that is "complete and well prepared", which is also shown by attention for culture, professionalism and competence in the various fields of knowledge for the benefit of all. Consequently the religious dimension is not a superstructure, it is an integral part of the person from the very earliest infancy; it is fundamental openness to otherness and to the mystery that presides over every relationship and every encounter with human beings. The religious dimension makes the person more human. May your teaching always be able, like Paul's, to open students to this dimension of freedom and the full appreciation of man redeemed by Christ as he is in God's plan, thereby expressing true intellectual charity to countless children and their families.

One of the main aspects of your teaching is of course the communication of the truth and beauty of the word of God and knowledge of the Bible is an essential element of the curriculum for teaching the Catholic religion. There is a connection between the scholastic teaching of religion and the existential deepening of faith, as happens in parishes and in the various ecclesial structures. The very person of the Catholic religion teacher constitutes this bond: to you, in fact, in addition to the duty of the human, cultural and didactic competence proper to every teacher, belongs the vocation to make it clear that the God of whom you speak in the classrooms is the essential reference point of your life. Far from constituting interference or a curtailment of freedom, your presence on the contrary is an effective example of that positive spirit of secularism which makes it possible to promote a constructive civil coexistence, based on reciprocal respect and loyal dialogue, values which a country always needs.

As the words of the Apostle Paul which constitute the theme of your meeting suggest, I hope that the Lord may give to all of you the joy of never being ashamed of his Gospel, the grace to live it and the enthusiasm to share and to cultivate the newness that it radiates for life of the world. With these sentiments I bless you and your families, together with all those students and teachers whom you encounter every day in that community of people and life which is school.




AND PRAYER FOR THE DEAD Tent city of Onna Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Dear Friends,

I have come in person to your splendid, damaged region, that is living through days of great sorrow and precariousness, in order to express my heartfelt sympathy to you in the most direct way possible. I have been beside you from the first moment ever since I learned the news of the violent earthquake which, in the night of 6 April last, took a toll of almost 300 victims, injuring many and causing extensive material damage to your homes. I followed the news with apprehension, sharing your dismay and your tears for the dead, together with your anxiety over all that you lost in an instant. I am now here among you: I would like to embrace you one by one with affection. The whole Church is with me, close to your suffering, sharing in your grief at the loss of your relatives and friends, anxious to help you rebuild the houses, churches and firms that have collapsed or have been seriously damaged by the earthquake. I admired the courage, dignity and faith with which you have also faced this harsh trial, expressing great determination not to give in to adversity. It was not in fact the first earthquake to have hit your region, and today, as in the past, you have not given up. You have not lost heart. There is in you a strength of mind that inspires hope. Very significant in this regard is a saying dear to your elders: "There are still many days behind the Gran Sasso".

In coming here to Onna, one of the centres that has paid a high price in terms of human lives, I could imagine all the sadness and hardship you have felt during these weeks. If it had been possible, I should have liked to have gone to every village and to every district, to all the tent cities and to have met everyone. I am well aware that despite the commitment of solidarity shown on all sides, there is much daily hardship involved in living out of one's home, in cars or tents, especially because of the cold and the rain. Then I am thinking of all the young people suddenly forced to come to terms with a harsh reality of the children who have had to interrupt their studies together with their relations and with the elderly, deprived of their habits.

One might say, dear friends, that in a certain way you are in the state of mind of the two disciples of Emmaus, of whom the Evangelist Luke speaks. After the tragic event of the Crucifixion they were going home disappointed and embittered because of the "end" of Jesus. It seemed as though there was no more hope, that God had hidden and was no longer present in the world. But on the way he approached them and began to converse with them. Although they did not recognize him with their eyes, something stirred in their hearts: the words of that "Stranger" rekindled in them the enthusiasm and trust that the experience of Calvary had extinguished. So now dear friends: my humble presence among you is intended as a tangible sign of the fact that the Crucified Lord is alive, that he is with us, that he is really Risen and does not forget us, does not abandon you. He does not leave your questions about the future unanswered, nor is he deaf to the anxious cry of so many families who have lost everything: homes, savings, work, and even also human lives. Of course, his practical response passes through our solidarity, which cannot be limited to the initial emergency but must become a permanent, concrete project in time.

I encourage everyone, including institutions and businesses, so that this city and these regions may recover. The Pope is also here with you today to say a word of comfort about your dead: they are alive in God and expect of you a witness of courage and hope. They are waiting to see reborn this land which must be adorned anew with beautiful, solid houses and churches. It is precisely on behalf of these brothers and sisters that you must commit yourselves once again to living, with recourse to what never dies and what the earthquake has not destroyed, and cannot destroy: love. Love also endures on the other side of the passage of our precarious earthly existence because true Love is God. Those who love, in God, triumph over death and know that they do not lose those they have loved.

I would like to conclude these words by addressing a special prayer to the Lord for the earthquake victims.

We entrust these our loved ones to you, O Lord, knowing
that you do not take the life of your faithful but transform it
and, at the very moment, in which
the dwelling of our exile on this earth is destroyed,
you are concerned with preparing for it an eternal and immortal dwelling place in Paradise.
Holy Father, Lord of Heaven and earth,
hear the cry of pain and of hope
that is raised by this community harshly tried by the earthquake!
It is the silent cry of the blood of mothers, fathers, young people,
and also of tiny innocents which rises from this land.
They have been torn from the love of their dear ones,
may you welcome them all in your peace, Lord, who are God-with-us,
Love who can give us life without end.
We are in need of you and your power,
for in the face of death we feel small and frail;
We pray you, help us, because your support alone
can raise us and lead us to set out together anew on the path of life,
holding one another trustingly by the hand.
We ask this of you through Jesus Christ, Our Saviour,
in whom shines out the hope of blessed resurrection. Amen!

Now, let us say the prayer the Lord taught us. "Our Father...".

My prayer is with you. We are together and the Lord will help us. thank you for your courage, your faith and your hope.




MILITARY MEMBERS AND OTHER AUTHORITIES ADDRESS AND PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI Square in front of the School of the "Guardia di Finanza", Coppito - L'Aquila Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your welcome by which I am deeply touched. I embrace you all with affection in the name of Christ, our firm Hope. I greet your Archbishop, dear Mons. Giuseppe Molinari, who as Pastor has shared and is sharing with you this harsh trial; I address my thanks to him for the moving words full of faith and evangelical trust with which he has interpreted your sentiments. I greet Hon. Mr Massimo Cialente, Mayor of L'Aquila, who is working with great commitment for the rebirth of this city, as well as Hon. Mr Gianni Chiodi, President of the Region. I thank them both for their courteous words. I greet the Guardia di Finanza, which is hosting us here. I greet the Parish priests, and the other priests and religious. I greet the Mayors of the villages struck by the disaster, and all the civil and military Authorities: the Civil Defence Corps, the Fire brigade, the Red Cross, the Rescue Teams, and the numerous volunteers of the many different associations. To name them all would be difficult, but I would like to reach out to each one with a special word of appreciation.
Thank you for all you have done and especially for the love with which you have done it. Thank you for the example you have given. Persevere united and well-coordinated, so that effective solutions may be found as soon as possible for those who today live in tent camps. I earnestly hope for this and pray for it.

I began my Visit at Onna, so badly shaken by the earthquake, also thinking of the other communities hit by the quake. I carry in my heart all the victims of this catastrophe: children, young people, adults, the elderly, those from the Abruzzo, as well as those from other regions of Italy or even from different nations. The stop in the Basilica of Collemaggio to venerate the remains of Pope St Celestine v gave me an opportunity to feel tangibly this city's wounded heart. My homage is intended as a homage to the history and faith of your region and to all of you who identify with this Saint. As a sign of my spiritual participation I left on his tomb, as you mentioned, Mr Mayor, the Pallium conferred upon me on the day of the inauguration of my Pontificate. Moreover, it was deeply moving for me to pray in front of the Casa dello studente, where many young lives were cut short by the violence of the earthquake. Passing through the city, I have become even more aware of how serious the consequences of the earthquake are.

Here I am now in this square in front of the School of the Guardia di Finanza which has functioned since almost the very first moment as the general headquarters of the entire rescue operation. This place consecrated by prayers and mourning for the victims is the symbol of your tenacious determination not to give into despair. "Nec recisa recedit": the motto of the Corps of the Guardia di Finanza, which we can admire on the façade of the building, seems to express well what the Mayor described as the firm intention to rebuild the city with the constancy which is characteristic of the people of Abruzzo. This large square, which accommodated the bodies of the many victims during the funeral celebration presided by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, today gathers the forces committed to helping L'Aquila and Abruzzo to rise quickly from the rubble of the earthquake. As the Archbishop recalled, my visit among you, which I desired to make from the very outset, is intended as a sign of my closeness to each one of you and of the whole Church's fraternal solidarity. In fact, as a Christian community, we constitute a single spiritual body and if one part suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; and if one part tries to raise itself, all the parts share in its effort. I must tell you that expressions of solidarity for you have reached me from all over the world. Numerous senior figures of the Orthodox Churches have written to me to assure me of their prayers and spiritual closeness and have also sent financial aid.

I would like to stress the value and importance of solidarity which, although it is shown in particular in moments of crisis, is like fire concealed beneath the ashes. Solidarity is a deeply civil and Christian sentiment and is the benchmark of a society's maturity. In practice, it manifests in rescue work but it is not only an effective organizational machine: there is a soul, there is a passion, which derive precisely from our people's great civil and Christian history, both in institutional forms and in voluntary work. And today I wish to pay homage to this too.

The tragic event of the earthquake invites the civil community and the Church to profound reflection. As Christians we must ask ourselves: "What does the Lord want to say to us through this sorrowful event?". We lived Easter facing this trauma, questioning the word of God and receiving new light from the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord. We celebrated the death and Resurrection of Christ bearing your sorrow in mind and heart, praying that the afflicted people would never lack trust in God and hope. But also as a civil community it is necessary to make a serious examination of conscience to ensure that the level of responsibility never diminishes. In this condition, L'Aquila [in English "the eagle"], though wounded, will be able to fly again.

I now invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to turn your gaze to the statue of Our Lady of Roio, venerated in a Shrine very dear to you, to entrust to her, Our Lady of the Cross, the city and all the other towns affected by the earthquake. I am leaving her a golden rose as a sign of my prayers for you, while I commend all the places that were struck to her motherly and heavenly protection.

And now, let us pray:

O Mary, our most beloved Mother!
You who stand close to our crosses,
as you remained close to the Cross of Jesus,
sustain our faith, so that even stricken by grief,
we may keep our gaze fixed on the Face of Christ in whom was revealed, in the extreme suffering of the Cross,
God's immense and pure love.
Mother of our hope,
give us your eyes to see beyond suffering and death the light of the Resurrection;
give us your heart to continue,
even in trials, to love and to serve.
O Mary, Our Lady of Roio,
Our Lady of the Cross, pray for us!

Regina Caeli…

TO THE BISHOPS OF ARGENTINA ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Consistory Hall Thursday, 30 April 2009

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate

It is a cause of great joy to me to meet this group of Pastors of the Church in Argentina, concluding their ad limina visit. I greet you with affection and hope that this brotherly meeting with the Successor of Peter will help you to feel the heartbeat of the universal Church and to consolidate the bonds of faith, communion and discipline that unite your particular Churches to this Apostolic See. At the same time, I give thanks to the Lord for this new opportunity to strengthen my brothers in the faith (cf. Lc 22,32), and to share in their joys and concerns, their successes and their difficulties.

I warmly thank Archbishop Luis Héctor Villalba of Tucumán, Vice-President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina for his cordial words which he addressed to me on your behalf, in which he expressed your sentiments of affection and adherence, as well as those of the priests, religious and lay faithful of your communities.

Dear Brothers, the Lord Jesus has entrusted to us a ministry of exalted value and dignity: to bring his message of peace and reconciliation to all peoples, to assist the holy People of God with fatherly love and lead it along the path of salvation. This task goes far beyond our personal merits and our poor human capacity, but we devote ourselves to it with simplicity and hope, sustained by Christ's words: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15,16). Jesus, the Teacher, watches over you with the love of a brother and a friend, he has called you to enter into intimacy with him and, in consecrating you with the holy oil sacramentally received he has placed the redeeming power of his Blood in your hands, so that, in the certainty of acting always in persona Christi capitis, you may be "a living sign of the Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Spouse, Teacher and High Priest of the Church" (Pastores Gregis ) in the midst of the people entrusted to you.

In the exercise of his episcopal ministry, the Bishop must always act among his faithful as the servant (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 27), drawing constant inspiration from the example of the One who did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mc 10,45). In fact, being a Bishop is a title of honour when one lives with this spirit of service to others and shares humbly and impartially in Christ's mission. Frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd will serve as an example and as encouragement to you in your efforts to proclaim and spread the Gospel. It will motivate you to care for your faithful with tenderness and mercy, to defend the weak and to spend your life in a constant and generous dedication to the People of God (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

As an essential part of your episcopal ministry in the Church, true amoris officium (cf. St Augustine in In ev. Jo. 123, 5), I wish to warmly encourage you to foster in your diocesan communities the practice of charity, particularly toward the neediest people. With your closeness and your words, with material aid and prayer, with the appeal for dialogue and in the spirit of understanding that always seeks the common good of the people, and with the light that comes from the Gospel, you want to bear a positive and visible witness to Christ's love among people, to continuously build the Church as the family of God, ever welcoming and merciful to the poorest people so that in all the dioceses charity may prevail in the fulfilment of the mandate of Jesus Christ (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16). In addition, I would also like to insist on the importance of prayer in the face of activism or a secularized vision of Christian charitable work (cf. Deus Caritas Est ). This diligent contact with Christ in prayer transforms the hearts of believers, opening them to the needs of others, without being inspired by the "ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love" (ibid., n. 33).

I would like in particular to entrust to you the priests, your closest collaborators. May the embrace of peace with which you welcome them on the day of their ordination to the priesthood be a living reality every day and contribute to deepening ever more the bonds of affection, respect and trust that unite you to them by virtue of the sacrament of Orders. Recognizing your priests' self-denial and devotion to the ministry, I would also like to invite them to identify more and more with the Lord, demonstrating with their virtues and good example that they are true models for the flock, and tending God's flock lovingly (cf. 1P 5,2-3).

The specific vocation of the lay faithful leads them to seek to live an upright social life and to illumine earthly realities with the light of the Gospel. May lay people, conscious of the commitments assumed in Baptism and inspired by the charity of Christ, participate actively in the Church's mission, as well as in their country's social, political economic and cultural life. In this regard, Catholics must distinguish themselves among their fellow citizens through their exemplary fulfilment of civil duties as well as by the exercise of the human and Christian virtues that contribute to improving personal, social and working relations. Their commitment will also lead them to promote in a special way those values that are essential to the common good of society, such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on the marriage between a man and a woman, the protection of human life from its conception until its natural death, and the right and duty of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own moral and religious convictions.

I would like to end by asking you to carry my affectionate greeting to all the members of your diocesan churches. Tell the Bishops emeritus, the priests, the seminarians, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful that the Pope thanks them for their work for the Lord and the Gospel cause, that he hopes and trusts in their fidelity to the Church. Dear Bishops of Argentina, I thank you for your pastoral concern and I assure you of my spiritual closeness and of my constant prayers. I cordially entrust you to the protection of Nuestra Señora de Luján and I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 18049