Speeches 2005-13 357
Hall of the Swiss, Papal Summer Residence of Castel Gandolfo Thursday, 29 July 2010
Dear Prof. Fuchs,
Dear Mr Mandlik,
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this moment I can only say "thank you" to the Bavarian Radio for this extraordinary spiritual journey that has enabled us to relive and review decisive and culminating moments in these past five years of my Petrine Service and of the life of the Church.
It was very moving to me personally to see certain moments, especially the moment when the Lord laid the Petrine Service upon my shoulders. This is a burden that no one could bear on his own, with his own strength alone, and which he is only able to carry because the Lord carries us and carries me. It seems to me that in this film we saw the riches of the Church's life, the multiplicity of cultures, of charisms, of the various gifts that are alive in the Church and that the same one Church always lives in this great multiplicity and diversity. And the Petrine Primacy has this mandate to make unity visible and concrete in the historical, concrete multiplicity, in the unity of present, past, future and eternity.
We have seen that the Church today also suffers deeply, as we know, yet the Church is a joyful Church, not an aging Church; we have seen that the Church is young and that faith creates joy.
I therefore found that it was very interesting, a beautiful idea, to fit the film as a whole into the setting of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Hymn to Joy, which expresses as it were that behind the whole of history lies the joy of our redemption. I also liked the fact that the film ends with the visit to the Mother of God who teaches us the humility, obedience and joy of having God with us.
The Holy Father then said in German:
A cordial Vergelt's Gott [may God reward you], dear Prof. Fuchs, dear Mr Mandlik and all of you, their collaborators, for this magnificent moment you have given us!
At the end of today's Gospel the Lord makes us realize that we are continuing to live as pagans: in a spirit of reciprocity we invite only those who invite us, in turn giving to them what we receive from them. God's style is quite different: we experience it in the Blessed Eucharist. Deaf, blind and lame as we are before Him, he invites us to his table. He invites us, who have given nothing to him. In this we feel above all grateful for the fact that God exists, that God is as he is, that God is as Jesus Christ is, that he welcomes us even though we have nothing to give him and are sinners, that he invites us to his table and wishes to be at table with us. However, we also feel a sense of guilt at being so little different from pagans, of barely living this newness, in God's style. And for this reason let us begin Holy Mass by asking forgiveness; a forgiveness that transforms us, that truly makes us like God, in his image and likeness.
I warmly thank the Orchestra of Padua and of the Veneto as well as the "Accademia della Voce" Choir of Turin, conducted by Maestro Claudio Desderi, and the four soloists for offering us this interlude of inner joy and spiritual reflection with an intense performance of the Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With them, I thank Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for his words, and the various institutions that contributed to the organization of this event. We know well that during his travels in Italy with his father when he was very young Mozart stayed in various Regions, including the Piedmont and the Veneto, but we know above all that he absorbed the lively musical activity in Italy, distinguished by composers such as Hasse, Sammartini, Fr Martini, Piccinni, Jommelli, Paisiello, Cimarosa, to mention but a few.
Allow me, however, to say once again that a special affection binds me I might say, has always bound me to this supreme musician. Every time I hear his music I cannot but think back to my parish church when I was a boy when, on feast days, one of his "Masses" resounded. I felt in my heart that a ray of Heaven's beauty had reached me, and I have this sensation every time, today too, that I hear this great, dramatic and serene meditation on death. In Mozart everything is in perfect harmony, every note, every musical phrase, and it could not be otherwise. Even counterpoints are reconciled and the Mozart'esche Heiterkeit, the "Mozartian serenity" enfolds everything and at every moment. This is a gift of God's Grace, but it is also the fruit of the lively faith of Mozart who especially in his sacred music succeeds in making the luminous response of Divine Love shine out. This gives hope, even when human life is lacerated by suffering and death.
In the last letter, dated 4 April 1787, that he wrote to his dying father, he spoke in this way concerning the last phase of life on earth: "... for some years I have become so familiar with this sincere and most beloved friend of man (death), whose image, for me, not only has nothing terrifying about it but even appears very tranquillizing and comforting! And I thank my God for granting me the good fortune of having the opportunity to recognize in it the key to our happiness. "I never go to bed without thinking that I might perhaps be dead on the morrow. Yet not one of those who know me would be able to say that in company I am sad or in a bad mood. And for this good fortune I thank my Creator every day, and I wish for it with all my heart for all my peers". It is a letter that shows a deep and simple faith which likewise emerges in the prayer of the great Requiem and leads us, at the same time, to love intensely the events of earthly life as gifts of God and to rise above them, looking serenely at death as the "key" that opens the door to eternal happiness.
Mozart's Requiem is a lofty expression of faith that is well acquainted with the tragedy of human existence and is not silent about its dramatic aspects. It is thus an expression of a truly Christian faith, aware that the whole of human life is illumined by God's love. Many thanks again to all of you.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Dear members of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
I am very grateful to the Honourable Mr Çavusoglu for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of the Bureau and I extend to all of you a cordial welcome. I am happy to receive you on the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights which, as is well known, commits Member States of the Council of Europe to promote and defend the inviolable dignity of the human person.
I know that the Parliamentary Assembly has on its agenda important topics that deal above all with persons who live in particularly difficult situations or are subjected to grave violations of their dignity. I have in mind people afflicted with handicaps, children who suffer violence, immigrants, refugees, those who pay the most for the present economic and financial crisis, those who are victims of extremism or of new forms of slavery such as human trafficking, the illegal drug trade and prostitution. Your work also is concerned with victims of warfare and with people who live in fragile democracies. I have also been informed of your efforts to defend religious freedom and to oppose violence and intolerance against believers in Europe and worldwide.
Keeping in mind the context of today’s society in which different peoples and cultures come together, it is imperative to develop the universal validity of these rights as well as their inviolability, inalienability and indivisibility.
On different occasions I have pointed out the risks associated with relativism in the area of values, rights and duties. If these were to lack an objective rational foundation, common to all peoples, and were based exclusively on particular cultures, legislative decisions or court judgements, how could they offer a solid and long-lasting ground for supranational institutions such as the Council of Europe, and for your own task within that prestigious institution? How could a fruitful dialogue among cultures take place without common values, rights and stable, universal principles understood in the same way by all Members States of the Council of Europe? These values, rights and duties are rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning. The Christian faith does not impede, but favours this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity.
I am convinced that these principles, faithfully maintained, above all when dealing with human life, from conception to natural death, with marriage – rooted in the exclusive and indissoluble gift of self between one man and one woman – and freedom of religion and education, are necessary conditions if we are to respond adequately to the decisive and urgent challenges that history presents to each one of you.
Dear friends, I know that you also wish to reach out to those who suffer. This gives me joy and I encourage you to fulfil your sensitive and important mission with moderation, wisdom and courage at the service of the common good of Europe. I thank you for coming and I assure you of my prayers. May God bless you!
Dear Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil,
I warmly greet all of you on the occasion of your ad limina visit to Rome to which you have come to strengthen your bonds of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter and to be encouraged by him in your guidance of Christ's flock. I thank Bishop Czeslaw Stanula of Itabuna for his cordial words on your behalf and I assure you of my prayers for your intentions and for the beloved people of the north-east, from your North East III Region.
More than five centuries ago the first Mass in Brazil was celebrated in your very Region. It made the Body and Blood of Christ really present for the sanctification of the men and women of this beloved nation that came into being under the auspices of the Holy Cross. It was the first time that Christ's Gospel was proclaimed to this people, illuminating its daily life. Such evangelizing action of the Catholic Church was and continues to be fundamental in forging the identity of the Brazilian People, marked by the harmonious coexistence of individuals from different regions and cultures. Nevertheless, although the values of the Catholic faith have shaped the Brazilian heart and spirit, we note the growing influence of new elements in society, which a few decades ago were almost unknown to it. They are leading to the steady abandonment of ecclesial life, and also of the Church, by many Catholics, while the rapid expansion of Evangelical and Neo-Pentecostal communities is evident in the religious panorama of Brazil.
In a certain sense the reasons at the root of these groups' success are a sign of your people's widespread thirst for God. This is also an indicator of evangelization at a personal level, which is at times superficial; in fact, baptized people insufficiently evangelized can easily be swayed because their faith is frail; it is all too often based on an ingenuous form of devotion whereas, as I have said, they retain an innate religious sense. In the face of this situation a clear need for the Catholic Church in Brazil is emerging. On the one hand she must commit herself to a new evangelization that spares no effort in seeking Catholics who have drifted away or of those who know little or nothing of the Gospel message, but brings them to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, living and active in his Church. On the other hand, with the growth of new groups that in spite of being divided into various communities and denominations claim to be followers of Christ, it is even more imperative for Catholic pastors to commit themselves to building bridges to establish contact through a healthy ecumenical dialogue in the truth.
This effort is necessary first of all because division among Christians is contrary to the will of the Lord that "all may be one" (Jn 17,21). Furthermore, the lack of unity is a cause of scandal and ends by undermining the credibility of the Christian message proclaimed in society. Moreover its proclamation is perhaps even more necessary today than in past decades because, as your reports clearly demonstrate, the negative influence of intellectual and moral relativism in peoples' lives is evident, even in the small towns in the interior of Brazil.
Numerous obstacles stand in the way of Christian unity. In the first place it is essential to reject an erroneous vision of ecumenism that is conducive to a certain doctrinal indifferentism that seeks with a-critical irenics to level out all "opinions" in a sort of ecclesiological relativism. On a par with this is the challenge of the constant rise of new Christian groups, some of which resort to aggressive proselytism, which shows that the scene of ecumenism is still very variegated and confused. In this context as I said in 2007 in the Cathedral da Sé in São Paulo, at the unforgettable meeting with you Brazilian Bishops "a good historical and doctrinal formation is absolutely essential, so as to foster necessary discernment that leads to a better understanding of the specific identity of each of these communities, of the elements that divide them, and elements can be helpful on the road to building greater unity. The greatest common ground for collaboration should be the defence of fundamental moral values transmitted by the biblical tradition against the relativistic and consumerist cultural forces that seek to destroy them. Another such area is faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ his incarnate Son" (n. 6). I therefore encourage you to continue taking positive steps in this direction. One such is dialogue with the churches and ecclesial communities that belong to the National Council of Christian Churches, which, with initiatives like the Ecumenical Brotherhood Campaign, contribute to promoting Gospel values in Brazilian society.
Esteemed Brothers, dialogue among Christians is an imperative in our day and an irreversible option of the Church. In the meantime, as the Second Vatican Council recalled, prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life must be at the heart of every effort to promote unity (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8). It is the Lord who gives unity, it is not something created by human beings; Pastors are duty bound to obey the Lord's will, promoting practical initiatives that are free from any kind of conformist reductionism. However, they must be carried out with sincerity and realism and with the patience and perseverance born from faith in the providential action of the Holy Spirit.
Dear and venerable Brothers, at this meeting I have sought to highlight briefly several aspects of the great challenge of ecumenism entrusted to your apostolic concern. As I take my leave of you, I express once again my esteem and the assurance of my prayers for all of you and for your dioceses. I would like here in a special way to renew my fatherly solidarity to the faithful of the Diocese of Barreiras, recently deprived of the guidance of their first zealous Pastor, Bishop Ricardo José Weberberger, who is now in the Father's house, our common destination. May he rest in peace! As I invoke the intercession of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, I impart to each one of you, to the priests, the men and women religious, the seminarians, the catechists and all the people entrusted to your care, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am glad to welcome you and I greet you with deep affection on the occasion of this course of renewal that the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has organized for you as recently appointed Bishops. For a greater knowledge of the tasks inherent in your ministry and for you to renew the profession of your faith at the tomb of St Peter, these days of reflection in Rome are also a unique experience of collegiality, based on episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion. May this experience of brotherhood, faith, prayer and study at the Apostolic See, increase in each one of you communion with the Successor of Peter and with your Brother Bishops, with whom you share concern for the entire Church. I thank Cardinal Ivan Dias for his cordial words, as well as Monsignor the Secretary and Monsignor the Adjunct-Secretary, who have organized this symposium together with the Dicastery's collaborators.
Dear Brothers, called recently to the episcopal ministry, the Church places great hopes in you and follows you with prayer and affection. I too wish to assure you of my spiritual closeness in your daily service to the Gospel. I know the challenges you must face, especially in Christian communities that practice their faith in far from easy conditions, in which, in addition to various forms of poverty, they are at times the object of persecution, precisely because of their Christian faith. It is up to you to nurture their hope and to share in their difficulties, drawing inspiration from Christ's love that consists of care, tenderness, compassion, acceptance, availability and an interest in peoples' problems, for which we are ready to dedicate our lives (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for World Mission Day, 19 October 2008).
In all your duties you are sustained by the Holy Spirit who, during your Ordination, configured you to Christ, the Eternal High Priest. In fact the episcopal ministry can only be understood by starting afresh from Christ, the source of the one and supreme Priesthood in which the Bishop is enabled to share. He will therefore "strive to adopt a lifestyle which imitates the kenosis of Christ, the poor and humble servant, so that the exercise of his pastoral ministry will be a consistent reflection of Jesus, the Servant of God, and will help him to become, like Jesus, close to everyone, from the greatest to the least" (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis ). However, in order to imitate Christ it is necessary to spend sufficient time "being with him" and contemplating him in the prayerful intimacy of a heart to heart. Being frequently in God's presence, being a man of prayer and adoration: these are the priorities to which a Pastor is called. Through prayer, as the Letter to the Hebrews says (cf. 9: 11-14), the Bishop becomes both victim and altar for the salvation of the world. His life must be a continuous oblation to God for the salvation of his Church and, especially, for the salvation of the souls that are entrusted to him.
This self-sacrificing pastoral gift also constitutes the Bishop's true dignity, which he acquires by making himself the servant of all, even to the point of giving his life. The Episcopate, in fact like the presbyterate should never be misinterpreted in accordance with worldly categories. It is a service of love. The Bishop is called to serve the Church in the style of God made man, becoming ever more fully a servant of the Lord and a servant of humanity. He is above all a servant and steward of the Word of God, which is also his true strength. The primary duty of proclamation, together with the celebration of the sacraments, especially of the Eucharist, derives from the mission he has received, as the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis stresses "If the duty of proclaiming the Gospel is incumbent upon the whole Church and each of her children, it is particularly so upon Bishops, who on the day of their sacred Ordination, which places them in Apostolic Succession, assume as one of their principal responsibilities the proclamation of the Gospel; "with the courage imparted by the Spirit, they are to call people to faith and strengthen them in living faith" (n. 26). The Bishop must be nourished abundantly by these words of salvation, listening to it continuously, as St Augustine says: "Even if we are Pastors, the Pastor listens with fear not only to what is addressed to Pastors but also to what is addressed to the flock" (Discourse 47, 2). At the same time, acceptance and the result of the proclamation of the Good News are closely bound to the quality of faith and of prayer. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must believe in the power of God that flows from the Sacraments and accompanies them in their duties of sanctifying, governing and proclaiming; they must believe and live what they proclaim and celebrate. In this regard, the words of the Servant of God, Paul VI, are timely: "The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching. Precisely because of this we are, to a certain extent, responsible for the progress of the Gospel that we proclaim" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 76).
I know that the Communities entrusted to you are founded, so to speak, on religious, anthropological and social "frontiers" and, in many cases, are a minority. In such contexts a Bishop's mission is particularly demanding. Yet it is precisely in these circumstances that, through your ministry, the Gospel can show its full saving power. You must not give in to pessimism or discouragement because it is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and, with his powerful breath, instils in her the courage to persevere and also to seek out new methods of evangelization in order to reach unexplored territory. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive precisely because it responds to the profound need of human existence and proclaims convincingly that Christ is the One Saviour of every human being and all human beings. This proclamation is still valid today, as it was in the early days of Christianity when the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel took place.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that you possess the wisdom and strength you need to make your Churches witnesses of salvation and peace. He will guide you on the paths of your episcopal ministry, which I entrust to the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles. For my part, I accompany you with my prayers and with an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I impart to each one of you and to all the faithful in your Communities.
I am pleased to take the opportunity of the solemn presentation of the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See to welcome you and to express my best wishes for your lofty mission. I cordially thank you for your kind words addressed to me, also on behalf of the Federal President, Mr Christian Wulff, and of the Federal Government. I willingly extend my Greeting and Blessing to the Head of State, to the Members of Government and to all the citizens of Germany, in the hope that the good relations between the Holy See and the Federal Republic of Germany may endure and be further developed in the future.
Many Christians in Germany are turning their full attention to the imminent celebration of the beatifications of various priests martyred under the Nazi regime. Next Sunday, 19 September, Gerhard Hirschfelder will be Beatified in Münster. The Beatifications of Georg Häfner in Würzburg, as well as of Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange and of Eduard Müller in Lübeck, will take place in the coming year. The Evangelical Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink will also be commemorated, together with the Chaplains of Lübeck. The attested friendship of four clerics is an impressive testimony of the ecumenism of prayer and suffering which flourished in various places during the dark period of Nazi terror. We can look to these witnesses as luminous indicators for our common ecumenical journey.
In contemplating these martyrs it appears ever more clearly and as an example that on the basis of their Christian conviction some people are prepared to give their life for their faith, for the right to practise what they believe freely, for freedom of speech, for peace and for human dignity. Today, fortunately, we live in a free and democratic society. Yet, at the same time, we note that many of our contemporaries are not strongly attached to religion, as was the case with these witnesses of faith. One might ask whether there are still Christians today who guarantee their faith without compromises. On the contrary, generally many people show an inclination for more permissive religious concepts, also for themselves. A supreme, mysterious and indeterminate being who only has a hazy relationship with the personal life of the human person is succeeding the personal God of Christianity who reveals himself in the Bible.
These conceptions are increasingly stimulating discussion in society, especially in the area of justice and legislation. Yet, if someone abandons the faith in a personal God, the alternative arises of a "god" that does not know, does not hear and does not speak; and, especially, of one that has no will. If God has no will of his own, in the end good and evil are no longer distinguishable; good and evil are no longer in contradiction but in an opposition in which the one would be a complement to the other. In this way human beings lose their moral and spiritual strength which is essential for the person's overall development. Social action is increasingly dominated by private interests or the calculations of power, to the detriment of society. Instead, if God is a Person and the order of creatures, as likewise the presence of so many convinced Christians in society is a sign of this it follows that an order of values is legitimate. There are signs, that can also be traced in recent times, that attest to the development of new relations between the State and religion, even superseding the great Christian Churches that up to now have determined. In this situation, therefore, it is the task of Christians to follow this development positively and critically. They must also refine its meaning for the fundamental and lasting importance of Christianity in laying the foundations and forming the structures of our culture.
However, the Church sees with concern the growing endeavour to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and family from society's conscience. Marriage is manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which also always aspires to the transmission of human life. One of its conditions is the willingness of the spouses to refer to each other forever. This requires a certain maturity of the person and a fundamental existential and social attitude: a "culture of the person", as my Predecessor John Paul II once said. The existence of this culture of the person also depends on social developments. It can happen that the culture of the person in a society diminishes; paradoxically, this often derives from a rise in the standard of living. In the preparation and guidance of married couples it is necessary to create the basic conditions to sustain and develop this culture. At the same time, we must be aware that the success of marriages depends on all of us and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this regard, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that entail a re-evaluation of alternative models to married and family life. They contribute to weakening the principles of natural law and hence to the relativization of all legislation, as well as to the confusion about values in society.
It is a principle of Christian faith, anchored to natural law, that the human being should be protected, precisely in situations of weakness; the human person always takes priority over other aims. The new possibilities of biotechnology and medicine frequently put us in situations as difficult as walking on the razor's edge. It is our duty to study diligently to what point these methods may be helpful to the human being and where, instead, it is a matter of the manipulation of the human being or a violation of human integrity and dignity. We cannot refuse such developments but we must also be attentive. When people begin to make distinctions and often this is already done in the maternal womb between a life that is worthy and one that is unworthy of living, no other phases of life will be spared, especially not old age and infirmity.
Building a human society requires fidelity to the truth. In this context, certain phenomena active in the context of the public media are ultimately food for thought. Being in ever greater competition, the media believe they are impelled to attract the greatest possible attention. In addition, it is contrast that makes the news in general, even at the expense of the report's veracity. This becomes particularly problematic when authoritative people take a stance in this regard publicly, without being able to verify adequately all the aspects. Let us accept favourably the intention of the Federal Government to do its utmost in such cases, in a compensatory and reconciliatory manner.
Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for your work and for the contacts you will have with the representatives of the Roman Curia, with the Diplomatic Corps and also with the priests, religious and lay faithful involved in ecclesial activities who live here in Rome. I warmly implore for you, for your distinguished wife and for your collaborators at the Embassy an abundance of divine Blessings.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am very glad to meet you, the recently appointed Bishops from various countries in the world, gathered in Rome for the annual convention promoted by the Congregation for Bishops. I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet for his courteous words on behalf of you all; and I wish to offer him special good wishes at the beginning of his service as Prefect of this Dicastery. I am glad, venerable Brother, that you have the opportunity to begin with this beautiful experience of ecclesial communion among the new Pastors of various particular Churches. I also cordially greet Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, and express my gratitude to all who collaborate in the organization of this meeting.
According to a very significant custom, you have first of all made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, who conformed to Christ the Teacher and Pastor until his death and death on the Cross. In this regard, certain sayings of St Thomas Aquinas are illuminating and can constitute a true and proper programme of life for every Bishop. Commenting on Jesus' words in the Gospel according to John: "The Good Shepherd lays down his bodily life for his sheep" St Thomas observes: "the sheep who are his by authority and charity. Both are required, for they must obey him and he must love them; the first without the second is not enough" Expositio in evangelium Johannis, 10, 3). The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, specifies: "Since he is sent by the Father to govern his family, a Bishop must keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be ministered unto but to minister (cf. Mt 20,28 Mc 10,45) and to lay down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10,11). Taken from among men, and himself beset with weakness, he is able to have compassion on those who are ignorant and erring (cf. He 5,1-2). Let him not refuse to listen to his subjects whom he cherishes as his true sons and exhorts to cooperate readily with him. As having ... to render to God an account for their souls to God (cf. He 13,17), he takes care of them by his prayer, preaching and all good works of charity, and not only of them, but also of those who are not yet of the one flock. For these also are commended to him in the Lord. Since, like Paul the Apostle, he is a debtor to all men" (n. 27).
The Bishop's mission cannot be understood with the mentality of efficiency and efficacy, which is why attention should be paid first of all to what is to be done, but it is always necessary to keep in mind the ontological dimension that is at the root of the functional aspect. In fact, the Bishop, through the authority of Christ in which he is clad, when he is seated on his chair he is placed above and "before" the community, since he is "for" the community to which he addresses his pastoral concern (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Gregis ). The Regula Pastoralis of Pope St Gregory the Great that may be considered the first "directory" for Bishops in the history of the Church, describes pastoral government as "the art of arts" (I,1,4), and explains that supreme rule "is ordered well when superiors... smite faults and acknowledge themselves to be on a par with the others" and "presides over vices, rather than over the brethren" (II, 6).
They reflect the explanatory words of the rite of the Investiture of the Ring in the Liturgy of Episcopal Ordination: "Take this ring, the seal of your fidelity. With faith and love protect the bride of God, his Holy Church". The Church is the "bride of Christ" and the Bishop is the "guardian" (episkopos)of this mystery. The ring is therefore a sign of fidelity: it is fidelity to the Church and to the purity of the faith in her. To the Bishops, therefore, is entrusted a nuptial covenant: that of the Church with Christ. The words we read in John's Gospel are significant: "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice" (Jn 3,29). The concept of "guarding" does not only mean preserving what has been established although this element must never be lacking but includes, in its essence, also the dynamic aspect, in other words a perpetual and practical aspiration to perfection, in full harmony and continuous adaptation to the new needs that have arisen from the development and progress of that living organism which is the community.
The Bishop's responsibilities for the good of the diocese, as well as for society, are great. He is called to be "strong and determined, just and serene" (cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores, n. 44), for a sapiential discernment of people, reality and events, required by his task of being "father, brother and friend" (ibid., nn. 76-77) on the Christian and human journey. This is a profound perspective of faith and not merely human, administrative or sociological, into which fits the ministry of the Bishop who is not a mere ruler or a bureaucrat or a simple moderator and organizer of diocesan life. It is fatherhood and brotherhood in Christ which give the person in charge the ability to create an atmosphere of trust, of welcome and of affection but also of frankness and justice. Particularly illuminating in this regard are the words of an ancient prayer by Abbot St Aelred of Rievaulx: "You, O sweet Lord, have placed one such as me at the head of your family, of the sheep of your flock ... so that your mercy may be made manifest and your wisdom revealed. It has pleased your benevolence to govern your family well through such a man, so that the sublimity of your power may be seen and not that of man, so that the wise may not boast of their wisdom or the just of their justice or the strong of their strength. For when the latter govern your people well, it is not they who sustain them but you. And therefore, O Lord, glorify not us but your Name" (Speculum Caritatis, PL CXCV).
In entrusting to you, dear Brothers, these brief reflections, I invoke the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy Regina Apostolorum, and I cordially impart to each one of you, to your priests, to the men and women religious, to the seminarians and to the faithful of your dioceses a special Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 357