Speeches 2005-13 27098


Hall of the Swiss, Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Friends,

I receive you with joy and offer you my cordial welcome. I thank Cardinal Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for having explained to me the reasons for today's meeting and also for expressing your sentiments. I greet Archbishop Agostino Machetto, Secretary of the same Dicastery in charge of the pastoral care of human mobility, which also includes pastoral attention to tourism. I extend a greeting to Mrs Maria Pia Bertolucci and to Mons. Guido Lucchiari, respectively President and Ecclesiastical Adviser of the Tourist Centre for Youth (CTG), the main organizer of this meeting, as well as Dr Norberto Tonini, President of the International Office for Social Tourism (BITS) who has joined in the initiative. My affectionate greeting goes to all of you present here.

Our meeting is taking place on the occasion of today's celebration of World Tourism Day. The theme this year - Tourism Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change - points to a very timely problem, which concerns the potential of the tourist sector with regard to the state of the planet and of humanity's well-being. Both your Institutions seek to promote a tourism attentive to the integral advancement of the person, with a view to sustainability and solidarity. This makes you qualified agents in the work of safeguarding and responsibly making the most of the resources of creation, an immense gift of God to humanity.

Humanity is duty-bound to protect this treasure and to counter the indiscriminate use of the earth's goods. Without an adequate ethical and moral limit, human behaviour can in fact become a threat and a challenge. Experience teaches that the responsible management of creation is, or should be, part of a healthy and sustainable tourist economy. On the contrary, the improper use of nature and the abuse inflicted on the culture of local peoples also damage tourism. Learning to respect the environment also teaches respect for others and for oneself. In 1991, in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my beloved Predecessor John Paul II had already denounced the excessive and arbitrary consumption of resources, recalling that man is God's collaborator in the work of creation and cannot replace him. He also emphasized that humanity today "must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations" (n. 37).

It is therefore necessary, especially in the context of tourism, a great exploiter of nature, that everyone aim for a balanced management of our habitat, of what is our common home and will be for all who come after us. Environmental degradation can only be slowed down by spreading an appropriate behavioural culture entailing more modest ways of living. Hence the importance, as I recently recalled, of teaching a responsible code of ethics and of making "more constructive proposals so as to guarantee the good of future generations" (Address at the …lysťe Palace, Paris, 12 September 2008).

In addition, the Church shares with your Institutions and other similar Organizations the commitment to foster the "social tourism" that promotes the participation of the weaker classes and can thus be an effective instrument to combat poverty and frailty, providing jobs, safeguarding resources and promoting equality. This form of tourism is a cause of hope in a world in which there is a noticeable gap between those who have everything and those who suffer hunger, famine, and drought. I hope that the reflection occasioned by this World Day of Tourism, thanks to the theme suggested, will succeed in influencing the lifestyle of numerous tourists in a positive way, so that each one may make his or her own contribution to the well-being of all, which is ultimately the well-being of each one.

Lastly, I address an invitation to young people so that through your institutions you may become supporters and champions of lifestyles that aim at an appreciation of nature and its defence, in a correct ecological perspective, as I stressed several times on the occasion of the World Youth Day in Sydney last July. It is also the task of new generations to promote healthy and supportive tourism that bans consumerism and the waste of the earth's resources, to make room for gestures of solidarity and friendship, of knowledge and understanding. In this way tourism can become a privileged educational instrument in peaceful coexistence. May God help you in your work. For my part, rest assured of my remembrance in prayer, as with affection I impart the Apostolic Blessing to those of you present here, to your loved ones and to the members of your praiseworthy institutions.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year too, the time has come to take my leave of you at the end of the summer season. Before returning to the Vatican I feel a pressing need to renew my sincere gratitude for all that you have done for me and for my collaborators. I first greet and thank Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano Laziale, the parish priest of Castel Gandolfo and the parish community, together with the religious community who live and work here. In various circumstances I have met with all of you, and today I would like to repeat to you that the Pope is grateful for your material and spiritual support.

I next greet Mr Mayor and the members of the Municipal Administration who always express their closeness to me. Dear friends, I am aware of how much care you take during my stay. As I have told you on other occasions, I deeply appreciate your hospitality and your efforts to ensure me of all possible assistance, as well as to the guests and pilgrims who come to visit me, especially on Sundays for the customary Angelus. Please convey my gratitude to the entire population of Castel Gandolfo.

I now address with equal affection the organizers and the staff in charge of the many services of the Governorate. I have had the chance to appreciate the competence and dedication of each one of you, dear brothers and sisters, and I am grateful to you for everything. May the Lord help you and make your daily work fruitful.

The large family that is formed around the Pope at Castel Gandolfo also includes you, dear employees and agents of the various Italian Police Forces, whom I thank for your daily example and dedication. Today's liturgical commemoration of the holy Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel also affords me the opportunity to greet you with special affection, dear officers and members of the Corps of the Vatican Gendarmeria, who always work in close collaboration with the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps, to whom I address my grateful greeting. You are all, as it were, the Pope's faithful custodians.

Then I cannot forget the officials and airmen of the 31st Squadron of the Italian Air Force. I thank them for the high quality service they offer me and my collaborators in transporting us by helicopter or aeroplane. Dear friends, I express my sincere gratitude to each one of you.

I said just now that today's liturgy invites us to remember the holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Each one of them, as we read in the Bible, carried out a special mission in the history of salvation. Dear brothers and sisters, let us trustingly invoke their help, as well as the protection of the Guardian Angels whose feast we shall be celebrating in a few days' time, on 2 October. The invisible presence of these blessed spirits is a great help and comfort to us; they walk beside us and protect us in every circumstance, they defend us from danger and we may have recourse to them at every moment. Many saints cultivated a rapport of true friendship with the Angels, and numerous episodes testify to their assistance on specific occasions. Angels are sent by God "to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation" as the Letter to the Hebrews (1: 14) recalls, and are therefore a valuable help to us on our earthly pilgrimage towards the heavenly homeland.

My thanks, once again, to you all, also for your presence at this meeting; I thank those who have expressed your sentiments. I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of Angels, and warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to your families and to your loved ones.

TO THE STAFF OF THE PONTIFICAL VILLAS AND THE APOSTOLIC PALACE Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo Monday, 29 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the moment when I am about to take my leave of you at the end of my summer stay at Castel Gandolfo, I feel a pressing need to renew to you my gratitude for the diligent daily service you carry out here, at the Pontifical Villas.

I am grateful in the first place to the director, Dr Saverio Petrillo, for his courteous words and for having interpreted, as he does every year, the common sentiments of all. Strolling in the avenues of the Villas I have had an opportunity to appreciate the attention you pay to your work. Likewise, I feel the need to thank the personnel who take such good care of the Apostolic Palace.

I realize that my presence often makes extra work for you and this entails many sacrifices, for you personally and for your families. I warmly thank you for your generosity and I ask the Lord to reward you for everything. May he assist you with his grace and accompany with his fatherly love you and your relatives, to whom I ask you to convey my cordial greeting.

Today we are celebrating the feast of the holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael; I entrust you to their special protection so that you may carry out your various activities with calm and spiritual benefit. May the Blessed Virgin always watch over you and your loved ones. As I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I bless you all with affection.


Venerable Brothers,

I am particularly glad to meet you at the end of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I welcome your greeting, expressed by Archbishop Tomash Peta. I greet each one of you, the Bishops and the Delegate for Greek-Catholic faithful in Kazakhstan, the Apostolic Administrator in Kyrgyzstan, the Apostolic Administrator in Uzbekistan, the Superior of the Missio sui iuris in Takjikistan and the Superior of the Missio sui iuris in Turkmenistan. I am also grateful to you for bringing me the greeting of the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care in the Region of Central Asia. I assure you that the Successor of Peter follows your ministry with constant prayer and brotherly affection. This house, the house of the Bishop of Rome, is also yours.

I listened to each one of you with great interest and attention, hearing about your communities' achievements, commitments, projects and aspirations, and, of course, also the problems and difficulties that you confront in your pastoral action. Let us thank the Lord that the flame of the faith is still burning in believers' hearts despite the harsh pressure in the years of the atheist and Communist regime. This is thanks to the self-denial of zealous priests, religious and lay people. Communities can be reduced to a "little flock". You must not be discouraged, dear Brothers! Look at the first communities of the Lord's disciples. Although they were small they did not withdraw into themselves but, impelled by Christ's love, did not hesitate to shoulder the burdens of the poor and to meet the needs of the sick, joyfully proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel to all. Today too, as then, it is the Holy Spirit who leads the Church onwards. Therefore, let yourselves be guided by him and keep alive in the Christian people the flame of faith; preserve and make the most of the worthwhile pastoral and apostolic experiences of the past; continue to teach everyone to listen to the Word of God, inculcate - especially in young people - love for the Eucharist and Marian devotion and spread the practice of the Rosary among families. Furthermore, seek with patience and courage new forms and methods for the apostolate, concerned to put them into practice in accordance with today's needs, bearing in mind the language and culture of the faithful entrusted to your care. This will demand ever stronger unity among you as Pastors and among the clergy.

Your commitment to achieving this will certainly be more effective and efficient if you do not act alone but seek to increasingly involve the priests, your first collaborators, men and women religious, as well as the lay people dedicated to the various pastoral projects. Then remember that it is first and foremost these cooperators of yours, labourers, like you, in the Lord's vineyard, to whom you must listen and pay attention. Be available, therefore, and willing to meet their expectations, support them in difficult moments and invite them to place ever greater trust in Providence who never abandons us, especially in times of trial; be beside them when they traverse situations of human and spiritual loneliness. May all things be founded on constant recourse to God in prayer and a constant effort for unity among yourselves, as well as in each one of your respective and different communities.

All these things appear even more necessary in order to face the challenges to the proclamation of the Good News and consistent practice of Christian life posed by today's globalized society in your regions too. Here I would like to recall that in addition to the difficulties I mentioned earlier, almost everywhere in the world disturbing phenomena are seriously threatening security and peace. I am referring in particular to the scourges of violence and terrorism, to the spread of extremism and fundamentalism. Of course, it is necessary to combat these scourges with legislation. Yet the force of the law can never be transformed into injustice, nor can the free practice of religions be limited, because professing one's own faith freely is one of the fundamental and universally recognized human rights.

Then I feel it is helpful to reaffirm that the Church does not impose but rather freely proposes the Catholic faith, well aware that conversion is the mysterious fruit of the Holy Spirit's action. Faith is a gift and the work of God. For this very reason every type of proselytism that forces, induces or entices someone to embrace the faith by unworthy devices is strictly forbidden (cf. Ad Gentes
AGD 13). A person can open himself to the faith after mature and responsible reflection and must be able to achieve this intimate inspiration freely. This is not only for the individual's benefit but indeed for that of the whole of society, for the faithful observance of the divine precepts is helpful in building a more just and supportive coexistence.

Dear Brothers, I encourage you to persevere in the work you have undertaken, wisely making the most of the contributions of all. I take this opportunity to thank the priests and religious who work in the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions, and in particular: the Franciscans in the Diocese of the Most Blessed Trinity in Almaty, the Jesuits in Kyrgyzstan, the Conventual Franciscans in Uzbekistan, the religious of the Institute of the Incarnate Word in the Missio sui iuris in Tadjikistan, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Missio sui iuris in Turkmenistan. I also ask other religious families to make a generous contribution by sending personnel and means to bring to completion the apostolic work in the vast regions of Central Asia. I repeat to each one of you that the Pope is with you and supports you in your ministry. May Mary, Queen of Apostles, always watch over you and over your communities. May you always be accompanied by my prayers as I warmly bless you all.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus, together with your families, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome in this Pauline Year. I pray that your visit to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul will confirm you in the faith of the Apostles and fill your hearts with gratitude for the gift of our redemption in Christ.

At the beginning of his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul reminds his hearers that they are ďcalled to holinessĒ (Rm 1,7). During my recent Pastoral Visit to the United States, I wished to encourage the lay faithful, above all, to recommit themselves to growth in holiness and active participation in the Churchís mission. This was the vision that inspired the foundation of the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal association of Christian laymen, and it continues to find privileged expression in your Orderís charitable works and your concrete solidarity with the Successor of Peter in his ministry to the universal Church. That solidarity is manifested in a particular way by the Vicarius Christi Fund, which the Knights have placed at the disposal of the Holy See for the needs of Godís People throughout the world. And it is also shown through the daily prayers and sacrifices of so many Knights in their local Councils, parishes and communities. For this I am most grateful.

Dear friends, in the spirit of your founder, the Venerable Michael McGivney, may the Knights of Columbus discover ever new ways to serve as a leaven of the Gospel in the world and a force for the renewal of the Church in holiness and apostolic zeal. In this regard, I express my appreciation of your efforts to provide a solid formation in the faith for young people, and to defend the moral truths necessary for a free and humane society, including the fundamental right to life of every human being.

With these sentiments, dear friends, I assure you of a special remembrance in my prayers. To all the Knights and their families, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of lasting joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.




Quirinal Palace Saturday, 4 October 2008

Mr President,

It is with true pleasure that I once again cross the threshold of this palace where I was welcomed for the first time a few weeks after the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church. As I enter your official residence, Mr President, the symbolic home of all Italians, I recall with gratitude the courteous visit you wished to pay me in November 2006 at the Vatican, immediately after your election to the Supreme Magistrature of the Italian Republic. The present occasion is an opportunity for me to renew to you my grateful sentiments, also for the not forgotten and especially appreciated gift of the concert, a fine musical performance, which you were pleased to offer me last 24 April. Thus with deep gratitude I offer you, Mr President, your good wife and all who are gathered here my respectful and cordial greeting. My greeting is also addressed in a special way to the distinguished Authorities who govern the Italian State, to the illustrious figures present here, and is extended to the entire People of Italy, who are very dear to me and who are heirs to an age-old civilization and tradition of Christian values.

My Visit, the Visit of the Roman Pontiff to the Quirinal, is not only an act that fits into the context of the many relations between the Holy See and Italy, but, we might say, acquires a far deeper and more symbolic meaning. Indeed, for more than two centuries several of my Predecessors lived here, and from here governed the universal Church, even experiencing trials and persecution, as was the case for the Pontiffs Pius VI and Pius VII, both of whom were torn violently from their episcopal see and taken to exile. The Quirinal, which has witnessed many joyful and some sorrowful pages of the Papacy's history over the course of the centuries, preserves many signs of the Supreme Pontiffs' patronage of art and culture.

At a certain time in history, this palace became almost a sign of contradiction when, Italy, on the one hand, was longing to be a unified State, and the Holy See, on the other, was concerned to preserve its independence as a guarantee of its universal mission. As the conflict lasted some decades, it was a cause of suffering for those who sincerely loved both their Church and Country. I am referring to the complex "Roman Question", which was definitively and irrevocably settled on the Holy See's part with the signing of the Lateran Pacts on 11 February 1929. The first Visit by a Pontiff to the Quirinal Palace subsequent to 1870 took place towards the end of 1939, 10 years after the Lateran Treaty. On that occasion, my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII, the 50th anniversary of whose death we are commemorating this month, thus expressed himself using somewhat poetic images: "The Vatican and the Quirinal, divided by the Tiber, are reunited by the bond of peace as they remember the religion of their forebears and ancestors. The Tiber's waves have swept away and drowned the murky currents of the past in the Tyrrhenian Sea's whirlpools, and along its shores caused olive branches to flower once more (cf. Discourse, 28 December 1939).

Today it can truly be said with pleasure that the Italian State and the Apostolic See coexist peacefully and collaborate fruitfully in the city of Rome. My Visit also confirms that the Quirinal and the Vatican are not hills that ignore or resentfully oppose each other. Rather, they are places that symbolize mutual respect for the sovereignty of the State and for the Church, ready to cooperate in order to promote and serve the integral good of the human person and the peaceful development of social coexistence. This I would like to reaffirm is a positive reality that can be verified almost daily at various levels, and to which other States too can look, in order to learn a useful lesson.

Mr President, my Visit today is taking place on the day on which Italy is celebrating with great solemnity her special Patron, St Francis of Assisi. Among others, it was to St Francis that Pius XI made reference in his announcement of the signing of the Lateran Pacts and especially the Constitution of Vatican City State; for that Pontiff, the new sovereign reality was, as it was for the Poverello, "enough body, to keep body and soul together" (Discourse, 11 February 1929). Together with St Catherine of Siena, St Francis was proposed by the Italian Bishops and confirmed by the Servant of God Pius XII as the heavenly Patron of Italy (cf. Apostolic Letter Licet Commissa, 18 June 1939; AAS xxxi [1939], 256-257). At a time when the threat of war was looming over Europe, Pope Pacelli wanted to entrust Italy's destiny to the protection of this great Saint and illustrious Italian, dramatically involving your "beautiful Country" as well.

The choice of St Francis as Patron of Italy was thus motivated by the profound correspondence between the personality and action of the Poverello of Assisi and that of the noble Italian nation.
As the Servant of God John Paul II recalled during his Visit to the Quirinal on this very same day in 1985, "it would be difficult to find another figure who so richly and harmoniously embodies the characteristics of the Italian genius. "At a time when the establishment of independent City States was arousing ferments of social, economic and political renewal which shook the old feudal world to its very foundations", Pope Wojty≥a continued, "Francis was able to rise above the warring factions, preaching the Gospel of peace and love in full fidelity to the Church of which he felt himself to be a son, and in total adherence to the people of whom he knew himself to be a part" (Address to President Francesco Cossiga, 4 October 1985; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 14 October 1985, p. 1).

In this Saint, whose figure attracts believers and non-believers, we can glimpse the image of what the eternal mission of the Church is, also in her relations with civil society. In our epoch of profound and often anguishing change, the Church continues to propose the Gospel message of salvation to all and strives to contribute to the edification of a society founded on truth and freedom, on respect for human life and dignity, on justice and on social solidarity. Therefore, as I have recalled on other occasions: "In pursuing this aim, the Church is neither proposing goals of power for herself nor claiming privileges or aspiring to advantageous social or financial positions. Her sole purpose is to serve men and women, drawing inspiration as the supreme norm for her conduct from the words and example of Jesus Christ, who "went about doing good and healing all' (Ac 10,38)" (Address to H.E. Mr Antonio Zanardi Landi, Ambassador of Italy, 4 October 2007).

To bring her mission to completion, the Church must everywhere and always be able to enjoy the right to religious freedom, considered in its full breadth. At the United Nations Assembly, in which the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being commemorated this year, I wished to reaffirm that, "the full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence, to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order" (Address to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 18 April 2008). The Church makes this contribution to building society in many ways, being a body of many members, a reality at the same time both spiritual and visible, in which the members have different vocations, tasks and roles. She feels particularly responsible for the new generations: indeed, the pressing problem of education, the indispensable key for access to a future inspired by the perennial values of Christian humanism, is being felt today. The formation of youth is therefore an undertaking in which the Church also feels involved, together with families and schools. Indeed, she is well aware of the importance education has in learning authentic freedom, a necessary presupposition for a positive service to the common good. Only a serious educative commitment will make it possible to build a supportive society truly motivated by a sense of legality.

Mr President, I am pleased here to renew the hope that the Christian communities and many Italian ecclesial bodies may fittingly form people, especially youth, besides training responsible citizens committed to civil life. I am sure that the Pastors and faithful will continue to make their important contribution in order to build, also at these moments of financial and social uncertainty, the common good of the country, as well as of Europe and of the entire human family, paying special attention to the poor and the marginalized, young people in search of employment and those who are unemployed, families, and the elderly who have built our present with effort and hard work, and hence deserve the gratitude of all. I likewise hope that the contribution of the Catholic community may be welcomed by all in the same spirit of openness as that in which it is offered. There is no reason to fear prevarication to the detriment of freedom on the part of the Church and her members, who moreover expect their right to be recognized not to betray their conscience, illumined by the Gospel. This will be even easier if it is never forgotten that all the members of society must work, with reciprocal respect, to achieve in the community that true good of the human being of which the heart and mind of the Italian people, nourished for 20 centuries by a culture steeped in Christianity, are well aware.

Mr President, in this most significant place, I would like to renew the expression of my affection, indeed of my special love for this beloved nation. I assure you and all Italians of my prayers, as I invoke the motherly protection of Mary, venerated with such deep devotion in every corner of the peninsula and the islands, from north to south, as I have also been able to see on my Pastoral Visits. In taking my leave, I make my own the exhortation that Bl. John XXIII addressed to Italy as a pilgrim to Assisi on the eve of the Second Vatican Council: "Beloved Italy, you on whose shores the barque of Peter came to rest and it is for this reason principally that from all lands the people of the whole universe come to you, who can welcome them with supreme respect and love may you preserve the sacred testament that commits you before heaven and earth" (Discourse, 4 October 1962).

May God protect and bless Italy and all its inhabitants!



Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of our Synod the Liturgy of the Hours presents a passage from Psalm 118 on the Word of God: a praise of his Word, an expression of the joy of Israel in learning it and, in it, to recognize his will and his Face. I would like to meditate on some verses of this Psalm with you.

It begins like this: "In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet". This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which one must base one's life. Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away". Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, a breath. As soon as it is pronounced it disappears. It seems to be nothing. But already the human word has incredible power. Words create history, words form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.

Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.

The following verse says: "Omnia serviunt tibi". All things come from the Word, they are products of the Word. "In the beginning was the Word". In the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it is "creatura Verbi". All is created from the Word and all is called to serve the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is conceived of to create the place of encounter between God and his creature, a place where the history of love between God and his creature can develop. "Omnia serviunt tibi". The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motive for everything, the motive for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and his creature. In this sense, salvation history, the Covenant, precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This material world seems to have been created solely to make room for the Torah, for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love. The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ is the protÚtypos, the first-born of creation, the idea for which the universe was conceived. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting with Christ. One can say that, while material creation is the condition for the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ, his living word that is the aim of all creation.

"Omnia serviunt tibi". In serving the Lord we achieve the purpose of being, the purpose of our own existence. Let us take a leap forward: "Mandata tua exquisivi". We are always searching for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. Just reading it does not mean necessarily that we have truly understood the Word of God. The danger is that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within, the Holy Spirit. We do not find the Word in the words.

In this context St Augustine recalls the scribes and pharisees who were consulted by Herod when the Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where the Saviour of the world would be born. They know it, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are great specialists who know everything. However they do not see reality, they do not know the Saviour. St Augustine says: they are signs on the road for others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger as well in our reading of Scripture: we stop at the human words, words form the past, history of the past, and we do not discover the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today in the words from the past. In this way we do not enter the interior movement of the Word, which in human words conceals and which opens the divine words. Therefore, there is always a need for "exquisivi". We must always look for the Word within the words.

Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only by conforming ourselves to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words. Let us pray to the Lord that he may help us search the word, not only with our intellect but also with our entire existence.

At the end: "Omni consummationi vidi finem, latum praeceptum tuum nimis". All human things, all the things we can invent, create, are finite. Even all human religious experiences are finite, showing an aspect of reality, because our being is finite and can only understand a part, some elements: "latum praeceptum tuum nimis". Only God is infinite. And therefore His Word too is universal and knows no boundaries. Therefore by entering into the Word of God we really enter into the divine universe. We escape the limits of our experience and we enter into the reality that is truly universal. Entering into communion with the Word of God, we enter a communion of the Church that lives the Word of God. We do not enter into a small group, with the rules of a small group, but we go beyond our limitations. We go towards the depths, in the true grandeur of the only truth, the great truth of God. We are truly a part of what is universal. And thus we go out into the communion of all our brothers and sisters, of all humanity, because the desire for the Word of God, which is one, is hidden in our heart. Therefore even evangelization, the proclamation of the Gospel, the mission are not a type of ecclesial colonialism, where we wish to insert others into our group. It means going beyond the individual culture into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers. Let us pray once again that the Lord may help us to truly enter the "breadth" of His Word and thus to open ourselves to the universal horizon that unites us with all our differences.

At the end, we return to a preceding verse: "Tuus sum ego: salvum me fac". The text translates as: "I am yours". The Word of God is like a stairway that we can climb and, with Christ, even descend into the depths of his love. It is a stairway to reach the Word in the words. "I am yours".The word has a Face, it is a person, Christ. Before we can say "I am yours", he has already told us "I am yours". The Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 39, says: "You gave me a body.... Then I said, "Here I am, I am coming'". The Lord prepared a body to come. With his Incarnation he said: I am yours. And in Baptism he said to me: I am yours. In the Holy Eucharist, he say ever anew: I am yours, so that we may respond: Lord, I am yours. In the way of the Word, entering the mystery of his Incarnation, of his being among us, we want to appropriate his being, we want expropriate our existence, giving ourselves to him who gave Himself to us.

"I am yours". Let us pray the Lord that we may learn to say this word with our whole being. Thus we will be in the heart of the Word. Thus we will be saved.
Speeches 2005-13 27098