Speeches 2005-13 22039

MEETING WITH CATHOLIC MOVEMENTS FOR THE PROMOTION OF WOMEN Parish of Saint Anthony in Luanda Sunday, 22 March 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“They have no more wine,” said Mary, begging Jesus to intervene so that the wedding-feast could continue, as was only right and fitting: “As long as the wedding guests have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast” (
Mc 2,19). The Mother of Jesus turns to the servants and implores them: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. Jn 2,1-5). Her maternal mediation thus made possible the “good wine”, prefiguring a new covenant between divine omnipotence and the poor but receptive human heart. This, in fact, had already happened in the past when – as we heard in the first reading – “all the people answered together and said: ‘all that the Lord has spoken, we will do’” (Ex 19,8).

These same words well up in the hearts of all gathered here today in Saint Anthony’s Church: a building which we owe to the commendable missionary efforts of the Capuchin Friars Minor, who wanted to provide a new Tent for the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of God’s presence among his pilgrim people. To them, to those who work alongside them, and to all who benefit from their spiritual and social assistance, the Pope imparts his blessing with warm words of encouragement. I greet with affection all those present: Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and particularly the lay faithful who consciously embrace the duties of Christian commitment and witness that flow from the Sacrament of Baptism and also – in the case of spouses – from the Sacrament of Marriage. Moreover, given the main purpose of our gathering today, I extend greetings of great affection and hope to all women, to whom God has entrusted the wellsprings of life: I invite you to live and to put your trust in life, because the living God has put his trust in you! With gratitude in my heart I also greet the leaders and facilitators of ecclesial movements that have made the promotion of Angolan women a priority. I thank Archbishop José de Queirós Alves and your representatives for their kind words and for drawing attention to the aspirations and hopes of so many of the silent heroines among the women of this beloved nation.

I call everyone to an effective awareness of the adverse conditions to which many women have been – and continue to be – subjected, paying particular attention to ways in which the behaviour and attitudes of men, who at times show a lack of sensitivity and responsibility, may be to blame. This forms no part of God’s plan. In the Scripture reading, we heard that the entire people cried out together: “all that the Lord has spoken, we will do!” Sacred Scripture tells us that the divine Creator, looking upon all he had made, saw that something was missing: everything would have been fine if man had not been alone! How could one man by himself constitute the image and likeness of God who is one and three, God who is communion? “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gn 2,18). God went to work again, fashioning for the man the helper he still lacked, and endowing this helper in a privileged way by incorporating the order of love, which had seemed under-represented in creation.

As you know, my dear friends, this order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the Trinitarian life, the Holy Spirit being the personal hypostasis of love. As my predecessor Pope John Paul II once wrote, “in God's eternal plan, woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root” (Mulieris Dignitatem MD 29). In fact, gazing upon the captivating charm that radiates from woman due to the inner grace God has given her, the heart of man is enlightened and he sees himself reflected in her: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2,23). Woman is another “I” who shares in the same human nature. We must therefore recognize, affirm and defend the equal dignity of man and woman: they are both persons, utterly unique among all the living beings found in the world.

Man and woman are both called to live in profound communion through a reciprocal recognition of one another and the mutual gift of themselves, working together for the common good through the complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity. Who today can fail to recognize the need to make more room for the “reasons of the heart”? In a world like ours, dominated by technology, we feel the need for this feminine complementarity, so that the human race can live in the world without completely losing its humanity. Think of all the places afflicted by great poverty or devastated by war, and of all the tragic situations resulting from migrations, forced or otherwise. It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity, to defend the family and to protect cultural and religious values.

Dear brothers and sisters, history records almost exclusively the accomplishments of men, when in fact much of it is due to the determined, unrelenting and charitable action of women. Of all the many extraordinary women, allow me to mention two in particular: Teresa Gomes and Maria Bonino. The first, an Angolan, died in 2004 in the city of Sumbe after a happily married life in which she gave birth to seven children; she was a woman of unswerving Christian faith and exemplary apostolic zeal. This was particularly evident during the years 1975 and 1976 when fierce ideological and political propaganda invaded the parish of Our Lady of Grace of Porto Amboim, almost forcing the doors of the church to close. Teresa then became the leader of the faithful who refused to bend under pressure. Teresa offered support, courageously protecting the parish structures and trying every possible means to restore the celebration of Mass. Her love for the Church made her indefatigable in the work of evangelization, under the direction of the priests.

Maria Bonino was an Italian paediatrician who offered her expertise as a volunteer in several missions throughout this beloved African continent. She became the head of the paediatric ward in the provincial hospital at Uíje during the last two years of her life. Caring for the daily needs of thousands of children who were patients there, Maria paid the ultimate price for her service by sacrificing her life during the terrible epidemic of Marburg Haemorrhagic Fever, to which she herself succumbed. She was transferred to Luanda for treatment, but she died and was laid to rest here on 24 March 2005 – the day after tomorrow is her fourth anniversary. Church and society have been – and continue to be – enormously enriched by the presence and virtues of women, and in a particular way by consecrated religious who, relying on the Lord’s grace, have placed themselves at the service of others.

Dear Angolans, since the dignity of women is equal to that of men, no one today should doubt that women have “a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation. This acknowledgment of the public role of women should not however detract from their unique role within the family. Here their contribution to the welfare and progress of society, even if its importance is not sufficiently appreciated, is truly incalculable” (Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace, 9). Moreover, a woman’s personal sense of dignity is not primarily the result of juridically defined rights, but rather the direct consequence of the material and spiritual care she receives in the bosom of the family. The presence of a mother within the family is so important for the stability and growth of this fundamental cell of society, that it should be recognized, commended and supported in every possible way. For the same reason, society must hold husbands and fathers accountable for their responsibilities towards their families.

Dear families, you have undoubtedly noticed that no human couple, alone and on its own strength, can adequately offer children love and a genuine understanding of life. In fact, in order to say to someone, “your life is good even though you don’t know what the future will bring”, there needs to be a higher and more trustworthy authority than parents alone can offer. Christians know that this higher authority has been given to the larger family which God, through his Son Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, has established within human history, namely the Church. We find at work here the eternal and indestructible love which guarantees to each of us that our life will always have meaning, even if we do not know what the future will bring. For this reason, the building up of every Christian family takes place within the larger family, the Church, which sustains the domestic family and holds it close to her heart, giving it the assurance that it is protected, now and in the future, by the “yes” of the Creator.

“They have no more wine” – Mary says to Jesus. Dear women of Angola, accept Mary as your advocate with the Lord. This is precisely how we see her at the wedding-feast of Cana: a tender woman, full of motherly care and courage, a woman who recognizes the needs of others and, wanting to help, places those needs before the Lord. If we stay close to her, we can all – men and women alike – recover that sense of serenity and deep trust that makes us feel blessed by God and undaunted in our struggle for life. May Our Lady of Muxima be the guiding star of your lives. May she keep all of you united in the great family of God. Amen.

FAREWELL CEREMONY 4 de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda Monday, 23 March 2009

Mr President,
Distinguished Civil, Military and Ecclesiastical Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear Angolan Friends,

Keenly aware of your presence as I depart, Mr President, I would like to express to you my appreciation and my thanks for the courteous treatment you have given me and for the efforts made to ensure the smooth progress of all the meetings I have had the joy of experiencing. To the civil and military authorities and to the Pastors and leaders of the ecclesial communities and institutions involved in those meetings, I express my warmest thanks for all the courtesy with which they honoured me during these days that I was able to spend among you. A word of gratitude is owed to the media personnel, to the security forces and to all the volunteers who generously, efficiently and discreetly contributed to the successful outcome of my visit.

I thank God that I have found the Church here to be so alive and full of enthusiasm, despite the difficulties, able to take up its own cross and that of others, bearing witness before everyone to the saving power of the Gospel message. She continues to proclaim that the time of hope has come, and she is committed to bringing peace and promoting the exercise of fraternal charity in a way that is acceptable to all, respecting the ideas and sensitivities of each person. It is time to say goodbye and to set off once more for Rome, sad at having to leave you, but glad to have known a courageous people determined to begin again. Despite the problems and obstacles, the people of Angola intend to build their future by travelling along paths of forgiveness, justice and solidarity.

If I may be permitted to make one last appeal, I would ask that the just realization of the fundamental aspirations of the most needy peoples should be the principal concern of those in public office, since their intention – I am sure – is to carry out the mission they have received not for themselves but for the sake of the common good. Our hearts cannot find peace while there are still brothers and sisters who suffer for lack of food, work, shelter or other fundamental goods. If we are to offer a definite response to these fellow human beings, the first challenge to be overcome is that of building solidarity: solidarity between generations, solidarity between nations and between continents, which should lead to an ever more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources among all people.

From Luanda I broaden my gaze to include the whole of Africa, confirming our appointment for the coming month of October in Vatican City, when we shall gather for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to this continent, where the incarnate Word in person found refuge. I ask God to grant his protection and assistance to the countless refugees who have fled their country, and are now at large, waiting to be able to return home. The God of Heaven says to them once again: “Even if a woman should forget the child at her breast, yet I will not forget you” (
Is 49,15). God loves you like sons and daughters; he watches over your days and your nights, your labours and your aspirations.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, friends from Africa, dear Angolans, take heart! Never tire of promoting peace, making gestures of forgiveness and working for national reconciliation, so that violence may never prevail over dialogue, nor fear and discouragement over trust, nor rancour over fraternal love. This is all possible if you recognize one another as children of the same Father, the one Father in Heaven. May God bless Angola! May he bless each of her sons and daughters! May he bless the present and the future of this beloved nation. May God be with you!


Dear Friends,

I see that you are still working. My work is almost complete, but yours is beginning again. Thank you for your diligence.

There are two impressions above all that have remained in my memory: on the one hand, the exuberant warmth, the joy of Africa in festive mood. It seems to me that they saw in the Pope, so to speak, the personification of the fact that we are all children of God, the family of God. This family really exists, and we, with all our limits, are part of it, and God is with us. Hence the presence of the Pope, so to speak, helped to create a sense of this, helped to create an atmosphere of real joy.

On the other hand, the spirit of recollection in the liturgies, the strong sense of the sacred, made a great impression on me: in the liturgies, the groups were not putting themselves forward, they were not drawing attention to themselves, but there was the presence of the sacred, of God himself: likewise in the way they moved, they were always respectful and conscious of the divine presence. This made a great impression on me.

I must say, too, that I was profoundly moved to learn that, on Friday evening amid the chaos at the entrance to the Stadium, two girls died. I have prayed and I continue to pray for them. Unfortunately one of them has not yet been identified. Cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Filoni were able to visit the mother of the other, a courageous widowed lady with five children. The eldest of the five – who is now deceased – was a catechist. We all hope and pray that in the future things can be organized in such a way that this no longer happens.

Then two other memories have remained with me: a special remembrance – so much could be said – concerns the Cardinal Léger Centre: I was deeply touched to witness there so many forms of suffering – all the pain, the sadness, the poverty of human life – but also to witness how State and Church work together to assist the suffering. On the one hand, the State manages this great Centre in an exemplary manner, on the other hand, ecclesial movements and Church agencies add their own contribution in order to provide real assistance to these people. And I think it can be seen that in offering help to the suffering, people become more human, the world becomes more human. This is what remains etched on my memory.

Not only did we distribute the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod, but we also worked for the Synod. On the evening of the feast of Saint Joseph, I had a meeting with all the members of the Council for the Synod – 12 Bishops – and each one spoke of the situation of his local Church. They spoke to me of their proposals and expectations, and from this a very rich picture emerged of the real situation of the Church in Africa: how the Church operates, how she suffers, what she does, what she hopes, what the problems are. I could say a great deal, for example about the Church in South Africa, which has had the experience of a difficult reconciliation, but has been substantially successful: the Church in South Africa is now assisting the efforts towards reconciliation in Burundi with her own experience, and she is seeking to do something similar, albeit amid very great difficulties, in Zimbabwe.

Finally I should like once again to thank all those who have contributed to the great success of this journey: we have seen all the preparations that went into it, how everyone worked together. I want to thank the State authorities, the civil authorities, those of the Church and all the individuals who helped out. It seems to me that the final word in this adventure must be a “thank you”. Once again I thank all of you journalists, for the work that you have done and continue to do. Safe journey to all of you. Thank you!


Dear Young People,

Welcome, and thank you for your appreciated visit. It is always a joy for me to meet young people; in this case I am even more pleased because you are volunteers in civil service, a characteristic that reinforces my esteem for you all. It also invites me to present certain reflections linked to your specific activity. First, however, I would like to greet the Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Carlo Giovanardi, who has promoted this meeting on behalf of the Italian Government. I also thank him for his kind words and likewise greet the other Authorities present.

Dear friends, what can the Pope say to young people involved in national civil service? First of all he can congratulate you on the enthusiasm that motivates you and the generosity with which you carry out your mission of peace. Then, may he be permitted to present to you a reflection which, I could say, relates to you in a more direct way. It is taken from the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, "joy and hope" which concerns the Church in the contemporary world. In the last part of this conciliar document in which the theme of peace among peoples is also addressed is found a basic expression on which it is good to reflect: "Peace will never be achieved once and for all, but must be built up continually" (n. 78). How true this observation is! Unfortunately, wars and violence never cease and the search for peace is always demanding. In years marked by the danger of possible global conflicts, the Second Vatican Council forcefully denounced the arms race in this text. "The arms race, which quite a few countries have entered, is no infallible way of maintaining real peace", and it immediately adds: "the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured" (Gaudium et Spes
GS 81). The Council Fathers followed this troubled observation by expressing a hope: "New approaches, based on reformed attitudes, will have to be chosen in order to remove this stumbling block, to free the earth from its pressing anxieties, and give back to the world a genuine peace" (ibid.).

"New approaches", therefore, "based on reformed attitudes" on the renewal of minds and consciences. Today as then, authentic conversion of hearts represents the right path, the only one that can lead each one of us and all humanity to the hoped-for peace. It is the path indicated by Jesus. He who is the King of the universe did not come to bring peace to the world with an army, but through the rejection of violence. He said so explicitly to Peter in the Garden of Olives: "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26,52); and then he said to Pontius Pilate: "If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world" (Jn 18,36).

Not only Christ's disciples have followed this path but also many men and women of good will, courageous witnesses of the force of non-violence. Again in Gaudium et Spes, the Council said: "We cannot but express our admiration for all who forgo the use of violence to vindicate their rights and resort to those other means of defense which are available to weaker parties, provided it can be done without harm to the rights and duties of others and of the community" (n. 78). You too belong to this category of peacemakers, dear young friends. Therefore may you always and everywhere be instruments of peace, determinedly rejecting selfishness and injustice, indifference and hatred, to build and to patiently and perseveringly disseminate justice, equality, freedom, reconciliation, acceptance and forgiveness in every community.

I am pleased to extend to you here, dear young people, the invitation with which I ended my annual Message for the World Day of Peace last 1 January, urging you "to expand [your] hearts to meet the needs of the poor and to take whatever practical steps are possible in order to help them. The truth of the axiom cannot be refuted: "to fight poverty is to build peace' (Message for World Day of Peace 1 January 2009, 8 December 2008). Many of you I am thinking for example of all those who work with Caritas and in other social organizations are involved daily in services to people in difficulty. But in every case, in the varied scopes of your activity, each and every one of you through this experience of volunteer work can reinforce their own social sensitivity, know others' problems from closer at hand and make of themselves active champions of concrete solidarity. This is surely the main objective of national civil service, a formative objective: to teach the young generations to cultivate a sense of responsible attention with regard to people in need and to the common good.

Dear young men and women, one day Jesus said to the people who were following him: "Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mc 8,35). In these words there is not only a Christian but also a universally human truth: life is a mystery of love, which belongs to us the more we give of it. Indeed, the more we give ourselves, that is, make a gift of ourselves, of our time, our resources and our talents for the good of others. Thus states a famous prayer attributed to St Francis, which begins: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace" and concludes with these words: "for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life". Dear friends, may this always be the logic of your life; not only now when you are young but also in the future, when as I hope for you you will have meaningful roles in society and will form a family. Be people who are ready to expend themselves for others and who are prepared even to suffer for goodness and for justice. I assure you of my prayers for this as I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy. I wish you a good service and bless you all wholeheartedly, together with your loved ones and the people whom you meet every day.



On arrival

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for being with me on this beautiful Sunday. It is unfortunately raining but the sun is also coming out. Perhaps it is a sign of this time before Easter, in which we feel the Lord's sorrows and all the problems of our world today, each one in his or her own way. But we know too that the sun exists, although it is often hidden; that God is close, helps us and accompanies us. In this regard, let us now move towards Easter, aware that suffering and difficulties are a part of our life but also knowing that behind them too is the Sun of divine goodness. In this regard I greet you all cordially: thank you for your presence. And a good Sunday to the whole of this beautiful parish, many good wishes!

To the children

Dear children, first of all I wish you a good Sunday. I am happy to be with you today, even if the weather is bad and we woke up an hour earlier because of the time change, yet we are all gathered together and I know that you are preparing for your First Communion, for your encounter with Jesus. Today we heard in the Gospel what the Greek people said: "we want to see Jesus". We all want to see and know Jesus, who is present among us. Walk this path of preparation now and then at the moment of First Communion he will be very close to you and you will be able to feel that he is with you. At Easter, with the beauty of the celebration, we shall be better able to feel that it is a feast which brings the presence of the Risen Jesus to the heart. And then I wish you a good Sunday, a good preparation for Easter and for Communion and great joy in the holidays, and then of course a good celebration for your First Communion: the centre of which, is not the banquet, but Jesus himself, then the banquet can also be good. My best wishes to all of you. Pray for me, I shall pray for you.

To the Pastoral Council

Dear friends, at this moment I can only say thank you for all that you do to build the living Church in this district of Rome. It seems to me that one of the gifts of the Second Vatican Council is the existence of these Pastoral Councils. In them lay representatives of the entire community, together with the pastor and priests, tackle the problems of the neighbourhood's living Church and help to build up the Church, to make the word of God present and to make the people sensitive to the presence of Jesus Christ in the sacraments. At this time in which secularism is pronounced and all the impressions one gathers round one seem to line up somewhat against the presence of God, against the capacity to perceive this presence. It is all the more important that the priest not be left alone but be surrounded by believers that carry with him this seed of the Word and help to make it live and grow in our time too. Therefore, thank you for your initiatives. It is important to comfort, help and assist people in suffering, for them to experience the closeness of believers who feel particularly drawn to all who are suffering.

I saw this in Africa: in Yaoundé, Cameroon, there is a large centre founded by Cardinal Léger, a Canadian great father of the Council, at which I met him. After the Council, of 1968 he felt the need not only to preach and to govern but to be a simple priest to help those who were suffering. He went to Cameroon and created this Centre which today belongs to the State, although mostly clerics work there, and the whole range of sufferings can be seen: Aids, leprosy, everything. But one also sees the power of faith, one sees people who, motivated by the strength of faith and the love that faith inspires, make themselves totally available: suffering is thus transformed and the people who help are transformed, they become more human, more Christian: they feel something of God's love. For this reason, in our own dimensions let us too always be sensitive to suffering, to people who are suffering, to the poor, to all needy people in diverse forms of poverty, including spiritually. They are waiting for us and in them the Lord awaits us. Thank you for all that you do.

According to tradition, the council is a gift of the Holy Spirit and so a parish priest and the Pope even more, need a council to help them in making decisions. Therefore these pastoral councils carry out the work of the Holy Spirit and witness to His presence in the Church.

Thank you for all that you do; may the Lord always help you and give you the joy of Easter throughout the year. Many thanks.

The Pope takes his leave

Dear friends, I would like to thank you for your enthusiasm. It makes me think of Africa, where I saw so many people rejoicing to be Catholic, to be part of the great family of God. Thank you, because I see this joy also in you. I wish you a good Sunday and happy Easter and the joy of the Lord in all life's complications: may his light too always be present. Thank you and my good wishes to you all.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

It gives me great joy to be able to receive you this morning, Pastors of the People of God in Argentina, who have come to Rome for your visit ad limina Apostolorum. My thoughts also turn to all the dioceses you represent and to your priests, religious and faithful who work with self-denial and enthusiasm for the edification of the Kingdom of God in this beloved nation.

First of all I would like to thank you for the kind words which Archbishop Alfonso Delgado Evers of San Juan de Cuyo has addressed to me on behalf of you all. He has wished to repeat to me your sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter, thereby reinforcing the inner bond that unites us in faith, fraternal love and prayer.

As in many other parts of the world, in Argentina too you feel the urgent need to carry out an extensive and effective evangelizing action which, taking into account the Christian values that have shaped your country's history and culture, will lead to the spiritual and moral renewal of your communities and of the whole of society. You are also motivated to do this by the vigorous missionary impetus that the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, held in Aparecida, desired to inspire throughout the Church in Latin America (cf. Final Document, n. 213).

My venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi that "to evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in his Son God has loved the world" (n. 26). Therefore, it does not consist solely in passing on or teaching a doctrine but also in proclaiming Christ, the mystery of his Person and his love, because we are truly convinced that "there is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him" (Homily, Mass for the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry, 24 April 2005).

This clear and explicit proclamation of Christ as the Saviour of men and women fits into the enthusiastic search for truth, beauty and goodness that characterizes the human being. Furthermore, taking into account that "the truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth" (Dignitatis Humanae
DH 1), and that the knowledge acquired from others or transmitted by one's own culture enriches the human being with truths that he could not acquire on his own, we consider that "proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race" (Address to the Congress of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 11 March 2006).

Every evangelizing mission is born from a threefold love: for the word of God, for the Church and for the world. Since through Sacred Scripture Christ enables us to know him in his Person, in his life and in his teaching, "the Church's principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish herself on the word of God, in order to make new evangelization, the proclamation in our day, more effective" (Homily at the conclusion of the 12th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 26 October 2008). Mindful that the word of God always yields abundant fruits (cf. Is Is 55,10-11 Mt 13,23) and that his word alone can profoundly change the human heart, I encourage you, dear Brothers to facilitate access to Sacred Scripture for all the faithful (cf. Dei Verbum DV 22,25), so that by placing the word of God at the centre of their lives, they may welcome Christ as our Redeemer and his light may illumine every context of humanity (cf. Homily at the Opening of the 12th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 5 October 2008).

Given that the word of God cannot be understood if it is separated from the Church or marginalized, it is necessary to encourage the spirit of communion and fidelity to the Magisterium, especially in those whose mission it is to communicate the Gospel message in its integrity. Moreover, the evangelizer must be a faithful son or daughter of the Church and, in addition, must be full of love for men and women in order to offer them the great hope that is in us (cf. 1P 3,15).

One must always bear in mind that the first form of evangelization is the witness of one's own life (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 35). Holiness of life is a precious gift that you can offer to your communities on the path of the true renewal of the Church. Today, more than ever, holiness is an ever-present necessity since the person of our time feels a pressing need for the clear and attractive testimony of a consistent and exemplary life.

In this respect, I strongly urge you to pay special attention to the priests, your most direct collaborators. More than ever, the challenges of our time demand virtuous priests, full of a spirit of prayer and sacrifice, with a sound formation and dedicated to the service of Christ and of the Church through the exercise of charity. The priest has the great responsibility of appearing to the faithful as irreproachable in his conduct, closely following Christ and with the support and encouragement of the faithful, especially with their prayers, understanding and spiritual affection.

The proclamation of the Gospel concerns everyone in the Church including the lay faithful, destined for this mission through their Baptism and Confirmation (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 33). I urge you, beloved Brothers in the Episcopate, to see that lay people are increasingly aware of their vocation as living members of the Church and authentic disciples and missionaries of Christ in all things (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 43). How many benefits one may expect, even for civil society, from the revival of a mature laity that seeks holiness in its temporal activities, in full communion with its Pastors, standing firm in its apostolic vocation to be a Gospel leaven in the world!

As I commend all your pastoral desires, concerns, and persons, with special devotion to the Virgin Mary, Nuestra Señora de Luján, I impart with all my affection in the Lord to you, to your priests, to your religious, seminarians and faithful a special Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2005-13 22039