Speeches 2005-13 14010


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to meet you at this traditional event. It gives us the opportunity to exchange cordial good wishes for the New Year and to reflect on the reality of our territory in which the Successor of Peter has been present for 2,000 years as Bishop of Rome and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Ecclesiastical Province that includes the whole of Lazio. I am grateful to you for coming and offer my respectful and cordial greeting to Hon. Mr Esterino Montino, Vice-President of the Regional Board of Lazio, Hon. Mr Gianni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, Hon. Mr Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Province of Rome, to whom I wish to express my warm thanks for their courteous words also on behalf of the Administrations they head. With them, I greet the President of the respective Council Assemblies and everyone present.

The crisis that has hit the world economy as has been recorded has also had consequences for the inhabitants and business companies of Rome and Lazio. At the same time, it has provided an opportunity to rethink the model of development pursued in the past few years. In the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I recalled that if human development is to be authentic it must concern every dimension of the person as a whole and must take place in love and in truth. Indeed, the human person is the focus of political action and his moral and spiritual growth must be a priority for those who are called to administer the civil community. It is fundamental that all who, through the citizens' vote of confidence, have received the lofty responsibility of governing the institutions see as a priority the constant need to pursue the common good, "a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it" (Caritas in Veritate, ). For this to happen it is appropriate that an effort be made at the headquarters of the institutions to encourage a healthy dialectic, since the more widely shared the decisions and provisions are, the better they will ensure their effective development for all the inhabitants of the territories administered.

In this context I wish to express my appreciation of the efforts made by these Administrations to meet the needs of the weakest and most marginalized classes, with a view to promoting a more just and solidary society. In this regard I would like to ask you to do your utmost to ensure that the centrality of the human being and of the family may be the inspiring principle behind all your decisions. It is particularly necessary to bear this in mind when establishing new urban districts, so that the inhabited complexes springing up may not be solely dormer towns. To this end it is opportune to plan structures designed to encourage socialization. This will prevent the growth and increase of withdrawal into individualism and exclusive attention to personal interests, damaging to all forms of human coexistence. With respect for the civil authorities' competences, the Church is willing to make her own contribution to ensuring that these neighbourhoods have a social life worthy of the human person. I know that this has already happened in various areas on the city's outskirts, thanks to the hard work of the Municipal Administration in establishing important institutions and I hope that these needs will be kept in mind everywhere. I am grateful for the consolidated collaboration that exists between the Administrations you head and the Vicariate, particularly with regard to the building of new parish complexes which, in addition to being reference points for Christian life, also play a fundamental educational and social role.

Such collaboration has made it possible to achieve significant objectives. In this regard, I would like to recall that in certain new quarters, inhabited in particular by young families with small children, the ecclesial communities have set up "children's prayer and recreation centres", aware that openness to life is the heart of true human development (cf. ibid., n. 28). These useful structures enable children to spend the day there while their parents are at work. I am confident that an ever more fruitful synergy between the different institutions will permit the creation of similar structures that help young parents in their educational task, both in the suburbs and in the rest of the City. I likewise hope that further provisions for families will be adopted, especially for those that are numerous, so that the entire City may enjoy the irreplaceable function of this fundamental institution, the first and indispensable cell of society.

As part of the promotion of the common good, the education of the new generations that constitute the future of our Region is a predominant concern that Government Administrators share with the Church and with all other educational organizations. For several years the Dioceses of Rome and Lazio have been committed to making their contribution in order to face the ever more urgent requests coming from the world of youth that demand appropriate, high-profile educational responses. The urgent need to help the young plan their lives in accordance with authentic values that refer to a "lofty" vision of the human being is clear to everyone and the Christian religious and cultural patrimony is one of its most sublime expressions. Today the new generations are asking to know who the human being is and what is the human destiny. They seek responses that can point out to them the way to take in order to found their lives on the perennial values. In particular, in the education that is proposed on the great themes of affectivity and sexuality, so important for life, it is essential not to present adolescents and young people with approaches that encourage the trivialization of these fundamental dimensions of human existence. To this end, the Church requests the collaboration of all, especially those who work in schools, in order to teach a lofty vision of love and of human sexuality. In this regard I would like to ask everyone to understand that in pronouncing her "nos", in reality the Church is saying "yes" to life, to love lived in the truth of the gift of self to the other, to love that is open to life and is not locked into a narcissistic vision of the couple. She is convinced that these decisions alone can lead to a model of life in which happiness is a shared good. On these themes, as well as on those of the family founded on marriage and on respect for life, from its conception to its natural end, the ecclesial community cannot but be faithful to the truth "which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development" (ibid., n. 9).

Lastly, I cannot but urge the competent authorities to pay constant and consistent attention to the world of sickness and suffering. May the health-care structures so numerous in Rome and in Lazio that offer an important service to the community be places in which one may always find an attentive and responsible management of government, professional skill and generous dedication to the sick, whose acceptance and treatment must be the supreme criterion of all who work in this sphere. For centuries Rome and Lazio have seen the presence of structures of Catholic inspiration that work for large sections of the population, flanking the public health-care structures. Catholic institutions seek to combine professional competence and attention to the sick with the truth and love of Christ. Indeed, by drawing inspiration from the Gospel they strive to be close to the suffering with love and hope, also supporting them in their search for meaning and seeking to provide answers to the questions that inevitably arise in the hearts of those who are experiencing the difficult dimension of illness and pain. In fact the human being needs to be treated in the unity of his spiritual and physical being. I therefore trust that despite the on-going financial problems, these structures may be adequately supported in their precious service.

Distinguished Authorities, as I express my deep gratitude for your courteous and welcome visit, I assure you of my cordial closeness and my prayers for you, for the lofty responsibilities with which you have been entrusted and for those within your administrative scope. May the Lord support you, guide you and fulfil the expectations of good present in the heart of each one.

With these sentiments, I impart the Apostolic Blessing with affection and benevolence, and cordially extend it to your families and to all who live and work in Rome, in its Province and throughout Lazio.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Faithful Collaborators,

It gives me great joy to meet you on the occasion of the Plenary Session and to express to you my sentiments of deep gratitude and cordial appreciation of the work you carry out at the service of the Successor of Peter in his ministry of strengthening his brethren in the faith (cf.
Lc 22,32).

I thank Cardinal William Joseph Levada for his greeting in which he recalled the topics that the Congregation is occupied at this time. He also recalled the new responsibilities that the Motu Proprio Ecclesiae Unitatem has entrusted to the Dicastery by closely joining with it the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

I would now like to reflect briefly on certain aspects that you, Your Eminence, have mentioned.

First of all I wish to emphasize that your Congregation participates in the ministry of unity that is entrusted to the Roman Pontiff in a special way, through his commitment to doctrinal fidelity. This unity, in fact, is primarily a unity of faith, supported by the sacred deposit whose main custodian and defender is the Successor of Peter. Strengthening brothers and sisters in the faith, keeping them united in the confession of the Crucified and Risen Christ, is the first and fundamental task that Jesus conferred upon the one seated on the Chair of Peter. It is a binding service on which depends the effectiveness of the Church's evangelizing action to the end of time.

The Bishop of Rome, in whose potestas docendi your Congregation participates, is bound to proclaim ceaselessly: "Dominus Iesus" "Jesus is Lord". The potestas docendi, in fact, entails obedience to the faith so that the Truth which is Christ may continue to shine out in its grandeur and resonate in its integrity and purity for all humankind, and thus that there may be one flock gathered round the one Pastor.

The achievement of the common witness to faith of all Christians therefore constitutes the priority of the Church of all time, in order to lead all people to the encounter with God. In this spirit I trust in particular in the Dicastery's commitment to overcome doctrinal problems that are still an obstacle to the achievement of full communion with the Church on the part of the Society of St Pius x.

I would also like to congratulate you on your commitment to fully integrating formerly Anglican groups and individual members of the faithful into the Church's life, in accordance with what is stipulated in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. The faithful adherence of these groups to the truth received from Christ and presented by the Magisterium of the Church is in no way contrary to the ecumenical movement but rather shows its ultimate purpose, which consists in the achievement of the full and visible communion of the Lord's disciples.

In recalling your invaluable service to the Vicar of Christ, I must also mention that in September 2008 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions. Following the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae by the Servant of God John Paul II in March 1995 this doctrinal document, centred on the theme of the dignity of the person created in Christ and for Christ, is a new landmark in the proclamation of the Gospel in full continuity with the Instruction Donum Vitae, published by this Dicastery in February 1987.

Concerning delicate and timely topics such as procreation and the new forms of treatment that involve the manipulation of embryos and the human genetic patrimony, the Instruction recalls that "the ethical value of biomedical science is gauged in reference to both the unconditional respect owed to every human being at every moment of his or her existence, and the defense of the specific character of the personal act which transmits life" (Instruction Dignitas Personae, n. 10). In this way the Magisterium of the Church wishes to make its own contribution to the formation of consciences, not only of believers but also of all who seek the truth and want to listen to arguments stemming not only from faith but also from reason. In fact the Church, in proposing moral evaluations for biomedical research on human life, draws on the light of both reason and faith (cf. ibid., n. 3), since she is convinced that "what is human is not only received and respected by faith, but is also purified, elevated and perfected" (ibid., n. 7).

In this context a response is likewise given to the widespread mentality that presents faith as an obstacle to scientific freedom and research, because it presumes that faith is made up of a pattern of prejudices that hinder the objective understanding of reality. Faced with this attitude that strives to replace truth with a consensus that is fragile and easy to manipulate, the Christian faith, instead, makes a real contribution in the ethical and philosophical context. It does not provide pre-constituted solutions to concrete problems like bio-medical research and experimentation, but rather proposes reliable moral perspectives within which human reason can seek and find valid solutions.

There are in fact specific contents of Christian revelation that cast light on bioethical problems: the value of human life, the relational and social dimension of the person, the connection between the unitive and the procreative aspects of sexuality, and the centrality of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. These matters engraved in the human heart are also rationally understandable as an element of natural moral law and can be accepted also by those who do not identify with the Christian faith.

The natural moral law is neither exclusively nor mainly confessional, even if the Christian Revelation and the fulfilment of Man in the mystery of Christ fully illumines and develops its doctrine. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, it "states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life" (n. 1955). Established in human nature itself and accessible to every rational creature, the natural moral law thus determines the basis for initiating dialogue with all who seek the truth and, more generally, with civil and secular society. This law, engraved in every human being's heart, touches on one of the essential problems of reflection on law and likewise challenges the conscience and responsibility of legislators.

As I encourage you to persevere in your demanding and important service, I would also like on this occasion to express my spiritual closeness to you, as a pledge of my affection and gratitude, as I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Dear Mayor,
Your Eminence,
Dear Archbishop,
Dear Auxiliary Bishop,
Dear Citizens of Freising,
Dear Friends,

It is a moving moment for me to have now legally become a citizen of Freising and thus belong in a new and deeply profound way to the City to which I feel I intimately belong. For this reason I can only say from the bottom of my heart "Vergelt's Gott" (may God reward you). My joy at this moment will stay with me.

In my life biography in the biography of my heart, if I may the City of Freising has played a very special role. In this City I received the formation that has marked my life ever since. Thus, in a certain way, Freising is always present in me and I in it. And as you noted, Mr Mayor the inclusion in my coat-of-arms of the Moor and Bear of Freising shows the whole world how closely I belong to it. Then the fact that I am also now legally a citizen of Freising, is the crowning point and I am profoundly glad.

On this occasion a whole horizon of images and memories wells up within me. You have mentioned some of them, dear Mr Mayor. I would like to take up certain points. To start with there is 3 January 1946. After a long wait, the time came at last when the Seminary of Freising could open its doors to all who were returning home. Indeed, it was still a hospital for former prisoners-of-war, but we were then able to begin. That moment marked a turning point in our lives: being on the path to which we felt called. In today's context we lived in a very "old-fashioned" way without comforts. We were in dormitories, study halls and so forth, but we were happy and not only because we had at last escaped the wretchedness and threats of war and Nazi domination, but also because we were free and, especially, because we had set out on the path to which we felt called. We knew that Christ was stronger than the tyranny, than the power of the Nazi ideology and its mechanisms of oppression. We knew that time and the future belong to Christ and we knew that he had called us and that he needed us, that there was a need for us. We knew that the people of those changed times were waiting for us, they were waiting for priests to arrive with a new impetus of faith to build the house of the living God. On this occasion I must also raise a small hymn of praise to the old athenaeum to which I belonged, first as a student and then as a teacher. Some were very erudite, and some were even known internationally, but what, to my mind, was most important was that they were not only scholars but also teachers, people who not only offered the first-fruits of their specialization but were concerned to give the students the essential, the healthy bread they needed in order to receive faith from within. And it was important that we if I may now say we did not feel like individual experts but rather that we were part of a whole, that each one of us was working for theology as a whole; that our work had to make visible the logic of faith as unity and thereby increase our ability to account for our faith, as St Peter said (cf.
1P 3,15), so as to pass it on in a new epoch with new challenges.

The second image that I would like to mention is the day of my ordination to the priesthood. The Cathedral was always the centre of our life, just as at the seminary where we were one family. And it was Fr Höck who made us a real family. The Cathedral was the centre of it and for our entire life represented the unforgettable day of our priestly ordination. Three moments are particularly deeply impressed within me. First of all, lying stretched out on the ground during the litany of the saints. In lying prostrate on the ground, one becomes newly aware of all one's poverty and asks oneself: am I truly capable of it? And at the same time the names of all the saints of history and the entreaty of the faithful ring out: "Hear us; help them". In this way the awareness grows that, yes, I am weak and inadequate but I am not alone, there are others with me, the entire community of the saints is with me. They accompany me and thus I can make this journey and become a companion and guide for others. The second moment, the imposition of hands by the elderly, venerable Cardinal Faulhaber who laid his hands upon me, upon all of us, in a profound and intense manner and the knowledge that it was the Lord who was laying his hands upon me and saying: "you belong to me, you do not simply belong to yourself, I want you, you are at my service"; but also the awareness that this imposition of hands is a grace, that it does not only create obligations, but above all is a gift, that he is with me and that his love protects and accompanies me. Then there was also the old rite in which the power to forgive sins was conferred at a separate moment. It began when the Bishop, pronouncing the Lord's words, said: "No longer do I call you servants... but... friends". And I knew we knew that this is not only a quotation from John 15 but a timely word that the Lord is addressing to me now. He accepts me as a friend; I am in this friendly relationship; he has given me his trust and I can work within this friendship and make others friends of Christ.

You have already alluded to the third image, Mr Mayor: I was able to pass a further unforgettable three and a half years with my parents at Lerchenfeldhof. Thus once again I could feel completely at home.

These last three and a half years with my parents were an immense gift to me and truly made Freising my home. I am thinking of the celebrations, of how we celebrated Christmas, Easter and Pentecost together; of our walks through the fields together, of how we would go to the woods to gather fir-tree branches and moss for the crib, and of our outings to the fields on the banks of the Isar. Thus Freising became a real homeland to us, and as a homeland it lives on in my heart.

Today Munich airport is located at the gates of Freising. Those who land or take off from there see the towers of Freising Cathedral, they see the mons doctus, and can perhaps understand a little of its past history and of its present. Freising has always had a sweeping view of the chain of the Alps. By means of the airport it has become, in a certain sense, also global and open to the world. And yet I want to say: the Cathedral with its towers points upwards to heights that are loftier by far and very different from those we reach in aeroplanes; the true heights, the heights of God from whom comes the love that gives us authentic humanity. Yet the Cathedral does not only indicate the loftiness of God who forms us and shows us the way, but also indicates an expanse, and this is not only because the Cathedral embraces centuries of faith and prayer, because it contains, so to speak, the whole community of saints, of all those who went before us who believed, prayed, suffered and rejoiced. It indicates, in general, the great host of all believers of all time. Thus it also shows a vastness which goes beyond globalization, because, in diversity, even in the different cultures and origins, it gives the strength of inner unity, in other words it gives that which can unite us: the unifying power of being loved by God. Thus for me Freising also continues to point out a path.

In closing, I would like once again to thank you for the great honour you have conferred on me, and to thank the band, which evokes here the true Bavarian culture. My desire my prayer is that the Lord may continue to bless this City and that Our Lady of the Cathedral of Freising may protect it, so that in the future too it may be a place of human life, faith and joy. Many thanks.

VISIT TO THE SYNAGOGUE OF ROME Sunday, 17 January 2010

"What marvels the Lord worked for them!
What marvels the Lord worked for us:
Indeed we were glad" (
Ps 126)
"How good and how pleasant it is
when brothers live in unity" (Ps 133)
Dear Chief Rabbi
of the Jewish Community of Rome,
President of the Union of Italian
Jewish Communities,
President of the Jewish Community
of Rome,
Distinguished Authorities,
Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

1. At the beginning of this encounter in the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome, the Psalms which we have heard suggest to us the right spiritual attitude in which to experience this particular and happy moment of grace: the praise of the Lord, who has worked marvels for us and has gathered us in his Hèsed, his merciful love, and thanksgiving to him for granting us this opportunity to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity. I wish to express first of all my sincere gratitude to you, Chief Rabbi, Doctor Riccardo Di Segni, for your invitation and for the thoughtful words which you have addressed to me. I wish to thank also the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Mr Renzo Gattegna, and the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Mr Riccardo Pacifici, for their courteous greetings. My thoughts go to the Authorities and to all present, and they extend in a special way to the entire Jewish Community of Rome and to all who have worked to bring about this moment of encounter and friendship which we now share.

When he came among you for the first time, as a Christian and as Pope, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, almost 24 years ago, wanted to make a decisive contribution to strengthening the good relations between our two communities, so as to overcome every misconception and prejudice. My visit forms a part of the journey already begun, to confirm and deepen it. With sentiments of heartfelt appreciation, I come among you to express to you the esteem and the affection which the Bishop and the Church of Rome, as well as the entire Catholic Church, have towards this Community and all Jewish communities around the world.

2. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council has represented for Catholics a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once again the historic visit by my Venerable Predecessor to this Synagogue on 13 April 1986, the numerous meetings he had with Jewish representatives, both here in Rome and during his Apostolic Visits throughout the world, the Jubilee Pilgrimage which he made to the Holy Land in the year 2000, the various documents of the Holy See which, following the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate, have made helpful contributions to the increasingly close relations between Catholics and Jews. I too, in the course of my Pontificate, have wanted to demonstrate my closeness to and my affection for the people of the Covenant. I cherish in my heart each moment of the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to the Holy Land in May of last year, along with the memories of numerous meetings with Jewish Communities and Organizations, in particular my visits to the Synagogues of Cologne and New York.

Furthermore, the Church has not failed to deplore the failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism (cf. Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, 16 March 1998). May these wounds be healed forever! The heartfelt prayer which Pope John Paul II offered at the Western Wall on 26 March 2000 comes back to my mind, and it calls forth a profound echo in our hearts: "God of our Fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant".

3. The passage of time allows us to recognize in the Twentieth Century a truly tragic period for humanity: ferocious wars that sowed destruction, death and suffering like never before; frightening ideologies, rooted in the idolatry of man, of race, and of the State, which led to brother killing brother. The singular and deeply disturbing drama of the Shoah represents, as it were, the most extreme point on the path of hatred that begins when man forgets his Creator and places himself at the centre of the universe. As I noted during my visit of 28 May 2006 to the Auschwitz Concentration camp, which is still profoundly impressed upon my memory, "the rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people", and, essentially, "by wiping out this people, they intended to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that remain eternally valid" (Discourse at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp: The Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, II, 1 [2006], p. 727).

Here in this place, how could we not remember the Roman Jews who were snatched from their homes, before these very walls, and who with tremendous brutality were killed at Auschwitz? How could one ever forget their faces, their names, their tears, the desperation faced by these men, women and children? The extermination of the people of the Covenant of Moses, at first announced, then systematically programmed and put into practice in Europe under the Nazi regime, on that day tragically reached as far as Rome. Unfortunately, many remained indifferent, but many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at risk of their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being hunted down, and earning perennial gratitude. The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.

The memory of these events compels us to strengthen the bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance may always increase.

4. Our closeness and spiritual fraternity find in the Holy Bible in Hebrew Sifre Qodesh or "Book of Holiness" their most stable and lasting foundation, which constantly reminds us of our common roots, our history and the rich spiritual patrimony that we share. It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive his word (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 839). "The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh is the Christ' (Rm 9,4-5), "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!' (Rm 11,29)" (Ibid).

5. Many lessons may be learnt from our common heritage derived from the Law and the Prophets. I would like to recall some of them: first of all, the solidarity which binds the Church to the Jewish people "at the level of their spiritual identity", which offers Christians the opportunity to promote "a renewed respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament" (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish people and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, 2001, PP 12 and 55); the centrality of the Decalogue as a common ethical message of permanent value for Israel, for the Church, for non-believers and for all of humanity; the task of preparing or ushering in the Kingdom of the Most High in the "care for creation" entrusted by God to man for him to cultivate and to care for responsibly (cf. Gen Gn 2,15).

6. In particular, the Decalogue the "Ten Words" or Ten Commandments (cf. Ex Ex 20,1-17 Dt 5,1-21) which comes from the Torah of Moses, is a shining light for ethical principles, hope and dialogue, a guiding star of faith and morals for the people of God, and it also enlightens and guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a "great ethical code" for all humanity. The "Ten Commandments" shed light on good and evil, on truth and falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human person's right conscience. Jesus himself recalled this frequently, underlining the need for active commitment in living the way of the Commandments: "If you wish to enter into life, observe the Commandments" (Mt 19,17). From this perspective, there are several possible areas of cooperation and witness. I would like to recall three that are especially important for our time.

The "Ten Commandments" require that we recognize the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider him superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have been fabricated to whom man bows down. Reawakening in our society openness to the transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service which Jews and Christians can and must offer together.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to respect life and to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom and the rights of human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that "shalom" which the lawgivers, the prophets and the sages of Israel longed to see.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive "Yes" of man and woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each, and makes them open, at the same time, to the gift of new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practised is a precious service offered in the construction of a world with a more human face.

7. As Moses taught in the Shema (cf. Dt Dt 6,5 Lv 19,34) and as Jesus reaffirms in the Gospel (cf. Mc 12,19-31), all of the Commandments are summed up in the love of God and loving-kindness towards one's neighbour. This Rule urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick, the weak and the needy. In the Jewish tradition there is a wonderful saying of the Fathers of Israel: "Simon the Just often said: The world is founded on three things: the Torah, worship, and acts of mercy" (Avoth 1: 2). In exercising justice and mercy, Jews and Christians are called to announce and to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of the Most High, for which we pray and work in hope each day.

8. On this path we can walk together, aware of the differences that exist between us, but also aware of the fact that when we succeed in uniting our hearts and our hands in response to the Lord's call, his light comes closer and shines on all the peoples of the world. The progress made in the last forty years by the International Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations and, in more recent years, by the Mixed Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See, is a sign of our common will to continue an open and sincere dialogue. Tomorrow here in Rome, in fact, the Mixed Commission will hold its ninth meeting, on "Catholic and Jewish Teaching on Creation and the Environment"; we wish them a profitable dialogue on such a timely and important theme.

9. Christians and Jews share to a great extent a common spiritual patrimony, they pray to the same Lord, they have the same roots, and yet they often remain unknown to each other. It is our duty, in response to God's call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the challenges of our time, which invite us to cooperate for the good of humanity in this world created by God, the Omnipotent and Merciful.

10. Finally, I offer a particular reflection on this, our city of Rome, where, for nearly two millennia, as Pope John Paul ii said, the Catholic Community with its Bishop and the Jewish Community with its Chief Rabbi have lived side by side. May this proximity be animated by a growing fraternal love, expressed also in closer cooperation, so that we may offer a valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face.

I beg from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the world, above all in the Holy Land. During my pilgrimage there last May, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I prayed to Him who can do all things, asking: "Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of those who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion" (Prayer at the Western Wall of Jerusalem, 12 May 2009).

I give thanks and praise to God once again for this encounter, asking him to strengthen our fraternal bonds and to deepen our mutual understanding.

[“O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him, all you peoples.
Strong is his love for us,
He is faithful forever.
Alleluia” (Ps 117)]

Speeches 2005-13 14010