Speeches 2005-13 8151

MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE WORLD OF CULTURE AND OF THE ECONOMY Basilica of Saint Mary of Health - Venice Third Sunday of Easter, 8 May 2011


Dear Friends,

I am glad to greet you cordially as representatives of the worlds of culture, art and the economy of Venice and its territory. I thank you for coming and for your warmth. I express my gratitude to the Patriarch and to the Rector who, on behalf of the Studium Generale Marcianum, has conveyed your feelings and introduced our meeting, the last on my busy schedule which began yesterday in Aquileia. I would like to leave you several very concise ideas, which I hope will be useful to you for reflection and for your common commitment. I have drawn these ideas from three words which are evocative metaphors: three words linked to Venice and, in particular, to the place in which we are now: the first word is aqua [water], the second is Salute [health/salvation], the third is Serenissima [most serene].

Let us begin with water, as would appear logical in many respects. Water is an ambivalent symbol: of life, but also of death; as the peoples hit by flooding and seaquakes know well. But water is first and foremost an element essential to life. Venice is called the “City of Water”. And for you who live in Venice this condition is a double sign, both negative and positive. It entails much hardship and at the same time an extraordinary fascination. Venice being a “city of water” makes me think of a famous contemporary sociologist who has described our society as “liquid”, and thus the European culture: to express its “fluidity”, its scant or perhaps lack of stability, its changeableness, the inconsistence which at times seems to characterize it. And here I would like to insert the first proposition: Venice, not as a “liquid” city — in the sense just mentioned — but as a city “of life and of beauty”. Of course, this is a choice but in history it is necessary to choose: men and women are free to interpret, to give a meaning to reality, and it is in this freedom itself that the great dignity of the human being consists.

In the context of a city, any city, the administrative, cultural and economic decisions depend, basically, on this fundamental orientation, which we may call “political” in the most noble, the loftiest sense of the term. It is a question of choosing between a “liquid” city, the homeland of a culture that appears ever more relative and transient, and a city that is constantly renewing its beauty by drawing on the beneficial sources of art, of knowledge and of the relations between people and peoples.

We come to the second word: “Salute”. We find ourselves at the “Polo della Salute” [the pole of health]: a new reality which nevertheless has ancient roots. Here, on the Punta della Dogana [Customs], one of the most famous of Venice’s churches stands. It is a work of Longhena, built as a vow to Our Lady for liberation from the plague of 1630: Santa Maria della Salute. Beside it the famous architect built the Convent of the Somascans, which subsequently became the Patriarchal Seminary. “Unde origo, inde salus”, reads the motto carved in the centre of the largest roundel in the Basilica, a phrase that indicates how closely linked to the Mother of God is the origin of the City of Venice which tradition claims was founded on 25 March 421, the day of the Annunciation. And it was through Mary’s intercession that health came, salvation from the plague. Yet reflecting on this motto we can also grasp another even deeper and broader meaning. From the Virgin of Nazareth came the One who gives us “salvation”. “Salute” is an all-encompassing, integral reality: it extends from “being well” which enables us to live serenely a day of study and work or of vacation, to the salus animae, on which our eternal destiny depends. God takes care of all this, excluding nothing. He takes care of our health in the full sense. Jesus demonstrates this in the Gospel: he healed the sick, suffering from every kind of illness, but he also freed those possessed by the devil. He forgave sins; he resurrected the dead. Jesus revealed that God loves life and wants to deliver it from every denial, even to the point of rescuing it from that radical denial which is spiritual evil, sin, a poisonous root that contaminates all things.

For this reason Jesus himself can be called man’s “Salvation”: Salus nostra Dominus Jesus. Jesus saves man by placing him once again in the salutary relationship with the Father in the grace of the Holy Spirit; immerses him in this pure and life-giving current which frees him from his physical, psychological and spiritual “paralyses”; heals him from hardness of heart and enables him to savour the possibility of truly finding himself, by losing himself for love of God and neighbour.

Unde origo, inde salus. This motto calls to mind a wealth of references; I limit myself to recalling one of them, the famous words of St Irenaeus: “Gloria Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei [est]” (Adv. Haer. IV, 20, 7) — which could be paraphrased: the glory of God is the full health of man and this consists in being in a profound relationship with God. We can also say it in terms dear to the new Blessed, John Paul ii: man is the way of the Church and the Redeemer of man is Christ.

Lastly the third word: “Serenissima”, the name of the Venetian Republic. This is a truly marvellous title, one might say utopian, in comparison with earthly reality; yet it is able to evoke not only the memories of past glories but also the driving ideals in the planning of today and of the future in this great region. In the full sense only the heavenly city is “most serene” the new Jerusalem, which appears at the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, as a marvellous vision (cf. Rev
Ap 21,1-22,5).

Yet Christianity conceives of this holy City, completely transfigured by God’s glory, as a destination that moves human hearts and spurs them onwards, that enlivens their demanding and patient work to improve the earthly city. What the Second Vatican Council says about this should always be remembered: “it profits man nothing if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself. Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come” (Pastoral Costitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes GS 39).

We listen to these words in an epoch when the power of ideological utopias is exhausted and not only is optimism obscured but hope is also in crisis. We must not, therefore, forget that the Council Fathers who left us this teaching lived in the period of the two World Wars and totalitarianism. Their perspective was certainly not dictated by an easy optimism, but by Christian faith which enlivens hope at the same time great and patient, open to the future and attentive to the historical situations. In this same perspective the name “Most Serene” speaks to us of a civilization of peace founded on mutual respect, on reciprocal knowledge, on friendly relations.

Venice has a long history and a rich human, spiritual and artistic patrimony in order to be capable, today too, of making a precious contribution to helping people believe in a better future and in committing themselves to building it. However for this reason it must not be afraid of another symbolic element, contained in the coat of arms of San Marco: the Gospel. The Gospel is the greatest power for transformation in the world, but it is neither a utopia nor an ideology. The first Christian generations called it rather the “way”, that is, the way of living that Christ practised first and invites us to follow.

The “Most Serene” city may be reached in this way, which is the way of charity in truth, knowing well, as the Council again reminds us, that “this love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life”, and that following Christ’s example “we must carry the cross, which the flesh and the world inflict on the shoulders of all who seek after peace and justice” (n. 38).

These, dear friends are the ideas for reflection that I wished to share with you. It was a joy to me to end my Visit in your company. Once again I thank the Cardinal Patriarch, the Auxiliary Bishop and all the collaborators for their magnificent welcome. I greet the Jewish Community of Venice — which has ancient roots and is an important presence in the fabric of the city — with its President, Prof. Amos Luzzatto. And I also extend a thought to the Muslims who live in this city. From this most important place I address my cordial greeting to Venice, to the pilgrim Church here and to all the Dioceses of the Triveneto while I impart the Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of my everlasting remembrance. Thank you for your attention.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet this delegation of B’nai B’rith International. I recall with pleasure my earlier meeting with a delegation of your organization some five years ago.

On this occasion I wish to express my appreciation of your involvement in Catholic-Jewish dialogue and particularly your active participation in the meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, held in Paris at the end of February. That meeting marked the fortieth anniversary of the dialogue, which was jointly organized by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. What has happened in these forty years must be seen as a great gift from the Lord and a reason for heartfelt gratitude towards the One who guides our steps with his infinite and eternal wisdom.

The Paris meeting affirmed the desire of Catholics and Jews to stand together in meeting the immense challenges facing our communities in a rapidly changing world and, significantly, our shared religious duty to combat poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights. There are many ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate for the betterment of the world in accordance with the will of the Almighty for the good of mankind. Our thoughts turn immediately to practical works of charity and service to the poor and those in need; yet one of the most important things that we can do together is bear common witness to our deeply-held belief that every man and woman is created in the divine image (cf. Gen
Gn 1,26-27) and thus possessed of inviolable dignity. This conviction remains the most secure basis for every effort to defend and promote the inalienable rights of each human being.

In a recent conversation between delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, held in Jerusalem at the end of March, stress was laid on the need to promote a sound understanding of the role of religion in the life of our present-day societies as a corrective to a purely horizontal, and consequently truncated, vision of the human person and social coexistence. The life and work of all believers should bear constant witness to the transcendent, point to the invisible realities which lie beyond us, and embody the conviction that a loving, compassionate Providence guides the final outcome of history, no matter how difficult and threatening the journey along the way may sometimes appear. Through the prophet we have this assurance: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jr 29,11).

With these sentiments I invoke upon you and your families the divine blessings of wisdom, mercy and peace.


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With joy I welcome you today, a few days after the Beatification of Pope John Paul II who, 30 years ago, as we heard, chose to found at the same time the Pontifical Council for the Family and your Pontifical Institute, two entities that show how firmly convinced he was of the family’s importance for the Church and for society.

I greet the representatives of your great community that now reaches across all the continents, as well as the praiseworthy Foundation for Marriage and Family which I created to support your mission. I thank your President, Mons. Melina, for his words on behalf of you all.

The new Blessed John Paul II, who, as was mentioned, was the victim of that terrible attack in St Peter’s Square 30 years ago, entrusted to you, in particular, the study, research and dissemination of his “Catecheses on human love” that contain a profound reflection on the human body. Joining the theology of the body with that of love in order to find unity in the human journey: this is the theme I would like to point out to you as a horizon for your work.

Shortly after the death of Michelangelo, Paolo Veronese was summoned by the Inquisition, accused of having depicted inappropriate figures in his “Last Supper”. The artist replied that even in the Sistine Chapel bodies were depicted nude, with little reverence. It was the Inquisitor himself who took Michelangelo’s defence, with a reply that has become famous: “But in these figures what is there that is not inspired by the Holy Spirit?”. As people of the modern age, we struggle to understand these words because the body appears to us as inert matter, heavy, opposed to knowledge and to the freedom proper to the spirit. However the bodies Michelangelo depicted are robed in love, life, splendour. He wanted in this way to show that our bodies hide a mystery. In them the spirit is manifest and active. They are called to be spiritual bodies, as St Paul says (cf.
1Co 15,44).

Consequently we can ask ourselves: can this destiny of the body enlighten the stages of its journey? If our body is called to be spiritual, should not its history be that of the covenant between body and spirit? Indeed, far from being opposed to the spirit, the body is the place where the spirit can dwell. In this light it is possible to understand that our bodies are not inert, heavy matter but, if we know how to listen, they speak the language of true love.

The first word of this language is found in the creation of the human person. The body speaks to us of an origin that we have not conferred upon ourselves. “You knit me in my mother’s womb”, the Psalmist says to the Lord (Ps 139,13). We can affirm that the body, in revealing our origin to us, bears within itself a filial significance because it reminds us that we are generated, and leads us back, through our parents who passed on life to us, to God the Creator. Only when he recognizes the originating love which has given this life can the human person accept himself, be reconciled with nature and with the world.

The creation of Adam is followed by the creation of Eve. The flesh received from God is required to make possible the union of love between man and woman and transmit life. Before the Fall the bodies of Adam and Eve appear in perfect harmony. There is a language in them that they did not create, an eros rooted in their nature which invites them to receive one another reciprocally from the Creator, so as to be able to give themselves.

Thus we understand that in love the human person is “re-created”. Incipit vita nuova [a new life begins], as Dante said, (Vita Nuova I, 1), the life of the new unity of the two in one flesh. The true appeal of sexuality is born of the vastness of this horizon that opens up: integral beauty, the universe of the other person and of the “we” that is born of the union, the promise of communion that is hidden therein, the new fruitfulness, the path towards God, the source of love, which love opens up.

The union in one flesh then becomes a union for the whole of life, until the man and woman become one spirit as well. Thus a journey begins in which the body teaches us the value of time, of that slow maturation in love. In this light the virtue of chastity takes on new meaning. It is not a “no” to the pleasures and joys of life, but a great “yes” to love as a profound communication between persons, a communication that requires time and respect as they journey together towards fullness and as a love that becomes capable of generating life and of generously welcoming the new life that is born.

It is true that the body also has a negative language: one hears talk of oppression of the other, of the desire to possess and exploit. However, we know that this language is not part of God’s original plan but, rather, is the result of sin. When it is separated from its filial meaning, from its connection with the Creator, the body rebels against the person, loses its capacity to let communion shine through and becomes a place for the appropriation of the other. Is this not perhaps the drama of that sexuality which today remains enclosed in the narrow circle of one’s own body and emotions, but which in reality can only find fulfilment in that call to something greater?

In this regard John Paul II spoke of the humility of the body. One of Claudel’s characters says to his beloved: “I am not able to keep the promise that my body made to you”, which prompts the reply: “You can break the body, but not the promise”. (Le soulier de satin [The Satin Slipper], Day 3, Scene XIII).

The power of this promise explains how the Fall is not the last word about the body in salvation history. God also offers the human person a process of the redemption of the body, the language of which is preserved in the family. If after the Fall Eve is given the name “Mother of the Living”, this testifies to the fact that the power of sin is not capable of obliterating the original language of the body, the blessing of life that God continues to offer when a man and woman are joined in one flesh. The family: this is the place where the theology of the body and the theology of love are interwoven. Here we learn the goodness of the body, its witness to a good origin, in the experience of the love we receive from our parents. Here lives the self-giving in a single flesh, in the conjugal charity that unites the spouses. Here we experience that the fruitfulness of love and life is interwoven with that of other generations. It is in the family that the human person discovers that he or she is not in a relationship as an autonomous person, but as a child, spouse or parent, whose identity is founded in being called to love, to receive from others and to give him or herself to others.

This journey of creation finds its fullness in the Incarnation, in the coming of Christ. God took a body, revealed himself in it. The upward movement of the body is hence integrated in another, more original movement, the humble movement of God who lowers himself towards the body, in order to raise it to him. As Son, he received a filial body in gratitude and in listening to the Father, and he gave this body for us, by so doing to generate the new body of the Church. The liturgy of the Feast of the Ascension sings the story of the flesh, sinner in Adam, assumed and redeemed by Christ. It is a flesh that becomes ever filled increasingly with light and the Spirit, filled with God.

Thus we see the depth of the theology of the body. When it is interpreted in the whole of tradition, it does not run the risk of superficiality and allows us to understand the greatness of the vocation to love, which is a call to a communion of persons in the twofold form of life of virginity and marriage.

Dear friends, your Institute has been placed under the protection of Our Lady. Concerning Mary Dante said some words that are enlightening for a theology of the body: “For in thy womb rekindling shone the love” (Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, 7). The Love which generates the Church was incarnate in her female body. May the Mother of the Lord continue to protect you on your journey and make fruitful your studies and your teaching in service to the Church’s mission for the family and society. May you be accompanied by the Apostolic Blessing which I cordially impart to you all. Thank you.


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

I would like to address my cordial greeting first of all to the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, whom I warmly thank for his words on behalf of all. To this I add my fervent good wishes for a successful ministry. At the same time, I express deep gratitude to Cardinal Ivan Dias for his generous and exemplary service in these years to the missionary Dicastery and to the universal Church. May the Lord continue to light the way of these two faithful workers in his vineyard.

I greet Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Secretary, Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, Adjunct Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the collaborators of the Congregation and the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, who have gathered in Rome from their various particular Churches for the Annual General Ordinary Assembly of the Superior Council. An affectionate welcome to you all.

Dear friends, with your precious work of animation and missionary cooperation you remind the People of God of “the need in our day too for decisive commitment to the missio ad gentes” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 95), to proclaim the “the great hope”, “the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety” (Encyclical Spe Salvi ). Indeed, new problems and new forms of slavery are emerging in our time, both in the so-called first world, well-off and rich but uncertain about its future, and in the developing countries, which, partly because of a globalization often characterized by profit ends by increasing the masses of the poor, emigrants and the oppressed, in which the light of hope fades.

The Church must constantly renew her commitment to bring Christ, to prolong his messianic mission to bring about the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of justice, peace, freedom and love. It is the duty of the entire People of God to transform the world according to God’s plan with the renewing force of the Gospel, so “that God may be everything to every one” (1Co 15,28). Thus it is necessary to continue with renewed enthusiasm the work of evangelization, the joyful proclamation of the Kingdom of God, who came in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead all men and women to the true freedom of children of God against every form of slavery. It is necessary to cast the nets of the Gospel into the sea of history to bring human beings towards the land of God.

“The mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 94). However in order that they may be a decisive commitment to evangelization, it is necessary that individual Christians and communities truly believe that “the word of God is the saving truth which men and women in every age need” (ibid., n. 95). If this conviction of faith is not profoundly rooted in our own lives, we shall not be able to feel the urgency and beauty of proclaiming it. In fact, every Christian must make his or her own the pressing need to work for the edification of the Kingdom of God. Everything in the Church is at the service of evangelization: every sector of her activity and also each and every one, in the various duties that they are called to carry out. All must be involved in the missio ad gentes: bishops, priests, men and women religious and lay people. “No believer in Christ can feel dispensed from this responsibility which comes from the fact of our sacramentally belonging to the Body of Christ” (ibid., n. 94). It is therefore necessary to ensure that all the sectors of pastoral work, catechesis and charity are characterized by the missionary dimension: the Church is mission.

A fundamental condition for proclamation is to let oneself be completely grasped by Christ, the Word of God incarnate, because only those who listen attentively to the incarnate Word, who are intimately united to him, can become his heralds (cf. ibid., nn. 51, 91). The Gospel messenger must remain under the dominion of the Word and must draw nourishment from the Sacraments: it is on this vital sap that their existence and missionary ministry depends. Only if we are rooted profoundly in Christ and in his word are we capable of withstanding the temptation to reduce evangelization to a purely human, social project, hiding or glossing over the transcendent dimension of the salvation offered by God in Christ.

It is a word that must be witnessed to and proclaimed explicitly, because without a consistent witness it proves to be less comprehensible and credible. Even if we often feel inadequate, poor, incapable, let us always preserve our certainty of the power of God who places his treasure “in earthen vessels” precisely so that it may appear that it is he who acts through us.

The ministry of evangelization is fascinating and demanding. It requires love for proclamation and bearing witness, a love so total that it can even be marked by martyrdom. The Church cannot fail in her mission of bringing Christ’s light, of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, even if this entails persecution (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 95). It is part of her very life, as it was for Jesus. Christians must not be afraid, even if “Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, n. 1).

St Paul said that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8,38-39).

Dear friends, I thank you for your work of animation and missionary formation which, as National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, you carry out in your local Churches. The Pontifical Mission Societies which my Predecessors and the Second Vatican Council have promoted and encouraged (cf. Ad Gentes AGD 38) remain a privileged instrument for missionary cooperation and for a useful sharing of personnel and financial resources among the Churches. Nor should the support that the Pontifical Mission Societies offer to the Pontifical Colleges here in Rome be forgotten. At these Colleges, priests, religious and lay people — chosen and sent by their Bishops — are formed for the local Churches in mission territories. Your work is essential for building the Church, destined to become the “common home” of all humanity.

May the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the Mission, guide and support us always, through the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of Apostles. To all of you and to your collaborators I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum during this Easter season. Through you I extend my greetings to all the faithful in your care, and I thank Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he has expressed on your behalf.

The Risen Christ’s presence among his disciples was a source of deep consolation for them, confirming them in their faith and deepening their love for him; and at his Ascension, he commissioned them, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28,19-20). This command impelled your own great patron Saint Thomas, the other Apostles and those who followed them, to preach the Gospel among the nations; and through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, the divine life of the Blessed Trinity has been passed on to many Christian souls.

Today, as in every age, the apostolic mandate finds its source and its central focus in the proclamation of the Incarnate Son of God, who is the fullness of divine revelation and “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14,6). The Saviour of all creation, he is the bearer of Good News for all and the fulfilment of man’s deepest yearnings. The definitive revelation of God which comes to us in Jesus Christ and which believers throughout the world joyfully proclaim is expressed in a particular way in the sacred Scriptures and in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ’s saving power is also proclaimed in the lives of the saints who have wholeheartedly taken up the Gospel message and lived it faithfully among their brothers and sisters. Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God’s grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God.

Within the Church, believers’ first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service. Some of you have told me of the challenges you face in this regard, and I support you in your commitment to provide quality formation in this area. Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation, priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself. This is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments.

In relation to the wider world, the Christian commitment to live and to bear witness to the Gospel offers distinct challenges in every time and place. This is certainly true of your country, which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity. The Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one’s own beliefs, and respect for those of one’s neighbour. The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation. This is an undertaking which respects and maintains the uniqueness and integrity of the divine revelation given to the Church as her inheritance, while showing that it is intelligible and attractive to those to whom it is proposed. The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News. As you strive to meet the challenging circumstances of proclaiming that message in the various cultural settings in which you find yourselves, you, my dear brother Bishops, are called to oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit. Combine that fidelity with sensitivity and creativity, so that you may give a convincing account of the hope that is within you (cf. 1P 3,15).

With regard to interreligious dialogue, I am aware of the challenging circumstances many of you face as you develop a dialogue with those of other religious beliefs, all the while encouraging an atmosphere of tolerant interaction. Your dialogue should be characterized by a constant regard for that which is true, in order to foster mutual respect while avoiding semblances of syncretism.

Moreover, as Indian Christians strive to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other beliefs, your prudent leadership will be crucial in the civil and moral task of working to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship. As you know, these rights are based upon the common dignity of all human beings and are recognized throughout the concert of nations. The Catholic Church strives to promote these rights for all religions throughout the world. I encourage you, therefore, to work patiently to establish the common ground necessary for the harmonious enjoyment of these basic rights in your communities. Even if he encounters opposition, the Christian’s own charity and forbearance should serve to convince others of the rightness of religious tolerance, from which the followers of all religions stand to gain. My prayers accompany you as you continue to address this sensitive and important question.

My brothers in the Episcopacy, I am grateful for this opportunity to renew our bonds of communion. May Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whose patient, personal service to her neighbour was motivated by the love of Christ, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to ensure the spiritual fruitfulness of your pastoral work. I assure you and all whom you serve of a constant remembrance in my prayers, and I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome you and to greet you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bl. John XXIII’s Encyclical Mater et Magistra, a document that is still very timely even in this globalized world.

I greet the Cardinal President, whom I thank for his courteous words, as well as the Secretary, the collaborators of the Dicastery and all of you who have gathered here from all the continents for this important congress.

In Mater et Magistra Pope Roncalli, with his vision of a Church placed at the service of the human family especially through her specific mission of evangelization, conceived of social doctrine — anticipating Bl. John Paul II — as an essential element of this mission, because it is “an integral part of the Christian conception of life” (n. 222). John XXIII is at the origin of the affirmations of his Successors even when he pointed out in the Church the communitarian and plural subject of social doctrine.

The Christifideles laity, in particular, cannot be solely passive beneficiaries but are the protagonists of the Church’s social doctrine at the vital moment of its implementation. They are also valuable collaborators of the pastors in its formulation, thanks to the experience they have acquired in the field and to their own specific skills. For Bl. John XXIII this was particularly true of the Church’s social doctrine, of which Truth is its light, Justice its objective, and Love its driving force (n. 226).

I took up his vision of social doctrine in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, as a testimony of that continuity which keeps together the whole corpus of the social Encyclicals. Truth, love and justice, indicated in Mater et Magistra, along with the principle of the universal destination of resources as the fundamental criteria for overcoming social and cultural imbalances, continue to be the pillars on which to base the interpretation and also the search for a solution to the internal imbalances of today’s globalization.

In the face of these imbalances it is necessary to re-establish an integral reason that regenerates thinking and ethics. Without moral thought capable of overcoming the structure of secular ethics, such as the neo-utilarian and neo-contractual, that are based mainly on skepticism and on a prevalently immanentistic view of history, access to knowledge of the true human good becomes difficult for contemporary man.

It is necessary to develop humanistic cultural syntheses open to the Transcendent through a new evangelization — rooted in the new law of the Gospel, the law of the Spirit — towards which Bl. John Paul ii frequently urged us.

Only in personal communion with the New Adam, Jesus Christ, is human reason healed and empowered and it becomes possible to gain a broader vision of development, of the economy and of politics, in accordance with their anthropological dimension and the new historical conditions.

It is thanks to reason, whose speculative and practical capacity has been restored, that it is possible to avail oneself of the basic criteria in order to overcome global imbalances in the light of the common good. In fact, without knowledge of the true human good, charity lapses into sentimentalism (cf. n. 3); justice loses its fundamental “measure”, the principle of the universal destination of resources is delegitimized.

Disparity, the gap between the rich and the poor and inequalities are nourished by the various global imbalances that characterize our epoch. They create problems of justice and hamper the fair distribution of resources and opportunities, especially with regard to the poorest.

However, no less worrying are the phenomenon linked to a financial system which, after the most acute phase of the crisis, has returned to the frenzied practice of drawing up credit contracts that often allow unlimited speculation. The phenomena of harmful speculation occur also in regard to staple foodstuffs, water and land, ultimately further impoverishing those already living in borderline situations.

Likewise, the increase in the prices of basic energy resources, with the consequent search for alternative forms of energy prompted, on occasion, by exclusively short-term financial interests, which can result in a negative impact on the environment, as well as on man himself.

The social question today is without a doubt one of world social justice as, moreover, Mater et Magistra already mentioned 50 years ago, although with reference to a different context. Furthermore, it is a question of the just distribution of material and non-material resources, of the globalization of substantive social and participatory democracy. For this reason, in a context in which a gradual unification of humanity is taking place, it is indispensable that the new evangelization of society highlight the implications of a justice that should be achieved at a universal level.

With reference to the foundation of this justice it should be emphasized that it is impossible to achieve it through social consensus alone, without recognizing that, to be permanent, it must be rooted in the universal good of humanity. With regard to the plan of realization, social justice should be practised in civil society, in the market economy (cf. Caritas in Veritate ), but also by a proportionately honest and transparent political authority, also at the international level (cf. ibid., n. 67).

With regard to the great challenges of our day, while the Church trusts primarily in the Lord Jesus and in his Sprit, who lead her through the events of the world, for the spread of the social doctrine she also relies on the activity of her cultural institutions, her programmes for religious instruction and social catechesis in the parishes, on the mass media and on the proclamation and witness of the Christifideles laici (cf. Mater et Magistra MM 207-208).

The latter must be spiritually, professionally and ethically prepared. Mater et Magistra insisted not only on formation but also on the education that forms a Christian conscience and introduces the person to concrete action in accordance with wisely guided discernment.

Bl. John XXIII said that “Christian education... must... aim at... fostering among the faithful... their duty to carry on the economic and social activities in a Christian manner (n. 228). Consequently, to be successful, formal instruction must be supplemental by... active cooperation in their own training” (n. 231) put into practice.

Still valid, too, in addition, are the instructions that Pope Roncalli offered on a legitimate pluralism among Catholics in the implementation of the social doctrine. He wrote, in fact, that in this context “differences of opinion in the application of principles can sometimes arise even among sincere Catholics. When this happens, they should be careful not to lose their respect and esteem for each other. Instead, they should strive to find points of agreement for effective and quick action, and not wear themselves out in interminable arguments, and, under pretext of the better or the best, omit to do the good that is possible and therefore obligatory” (n. 238).

Important institutions at the service of the new evangelization of the social fabric, besides volunteer organizations and Christian non-governmental organizations or those inspired by Christian ideals, are the Commissions “Justice and Peace”, the Offices for Social and Labour Problems, the Centres and Institutes of social doctrine, many of which do not confine themselves to its study and spread, but also accompany various initiatives that experiment with the content of the social Magisterium, as is the case with social cooperatives for development, experiences of micro-credit and an economy inspired by the logic of communion and fraternity.

In Mater et Magistra Bl. John XXIII recalled that one can better understand the basic demands of justice when one “walks a ‘child of the light’” (cf. 257). Therefore, my wish for you is that the Risen Lord may warm your hearts and help you to spread the fruit of redemption through a new evangelization of the social sphere and the witness of a righteous life according to the Gospel. May this evangelization be supported by a proper social apostolate, systematically put into effect in the various particular Churches. In a world that is frequently self-centred, without hope, the Church expects you to be leaven, tireless sowers of genuine and responsible thought and generous social planning, sustained by a total love of the truth that abides in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made man. In thanking you for your work, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet you and to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for the 75 years of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. I cordially greet the Grand Chancellor, Fr Saverio Cannistrà, Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Order and I thank him for his beautiful words; with him I willingly welcome the Fathers of the Generalate. I greet the President, Fr Anian Álvarez-Suárez, the academic Authorities and the entire teaching body of the Teresianum, and I greet you with affection, dear students, Discalced Carmelites, men and women religious of various orders, priests and seminarians.

Three quarters of a century have thus passed since that 16 July 1935, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in which the then International College of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the City was established as a theological faculty. From the outset it was oriented to developing spiritual theology in the framework of the anthropological question. The Institute of Spirituality came into being over the years. Together with the Theological Faculty it constitutes the academic centre that goes by the name of “Teresianum”.

Looking back at this Institution’s history, let us praise the Lord for the marvels he has worked in it, and, through it, in the many students who have attended it. First of all, being a part of this academic community is a special ecclesial experience, strengthened by all the riches of a great spiritual family, such as the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Let us remember the far-reaching renewal movement that St Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross generated in the Church through their witness.

It was John of the Cross who inspired that rekindling of ideals and fervour for contemplative life which in the 16th century set Europe and the whole world on fire. Dear students, your work of in-depth anthropological and theological study is also in continuity with this charism, the task of penetrating Christ’s mystery with that understanding of the heart which is both knowing and loving. This requires that you place Jesus at the centre of all things, of your affections and thoughts, of your time in prayer, study and action, of your whole life.

He is the Word, the “living book, as he was for St Teresa of Avila, who said: “to learn the truth he had no other book than God (La Vida [Autobiography], 26, 5). I hope that each one of you will be able to say with St Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Ph 3,8).

In this regard I would like to recall St Teresa’s description of the inner experience of conversion before the Crucified One, as she herself once experienced it. She wrote: “When I looked at it… so great was my distress when I thought how ill I had repaid him for those wounds that I felt as though my heart were breaking, and I threw myself down beside him, shedding floods of tears and begging him to give me strength once for all so that I might not offend him” (La Vida, 9, 1).

With the same dynamism the Saint seems to ask us too: how is it possible to be indifferent to such great love? How can we disregard the One who has loved us with such great mercy? The love of the Redeemer deserves the full attention of our heart and mind and can activate within us that wonderful cycle in which love and knowledge nourish one another.

Throughout your theological studies, always keep your gaze fixed on the ultimate reason why you undertook them, that is, on Jesus, for “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (cf. 1Jn 3,16). May you be aware that these years of study are a precious gift from divine Providence; a gift that should be accepted with faith and lived diligently as a unique opportunity to grow in the knowledge of Christ’s mystery.

A thorough in-depth study of Christian spirituality, starting with its anthropological presuppositions, is of great importance in the contemporary context. The specific formation it provides is certainly significant, for it equips and trains the student to teach this discipline and constitutes an even greater grace because of the know-how it brings concerning the sensitive task of spiritual direction.

As she has always done, today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction not only to those who desire to follow the Lord closely but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his or her Baptism, that is, new life in Christ.

Everyone, in fact, especially those who have heeded the divine call to follow Christ closely, needs to be accompanied personally by a guide reliable in doctrine and expert in the things of God, this guide can help people to watch out for facile forms of subjectivism, making available their own knowledge and experience lived in the following of Jesus.

It is a matter of establishing the same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, the special bond with which he led them, following behind him, to embrace the Father’s will (cf. Lc 22,42), namely, to embrace the Cross.

Dear friends, may you too, to the extent that you are called to this irreplaceable duty, cherish what you have learned in these years of study, in order to accompany those whom divine Providence will entrust to you, helping them in the discernment of spirits and in the ability to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, in order to lead them to the fullness of grace, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ep 4,13).

Dear friends, you come from all over the world. Here in Rome your hearts and minds are encouraged to be open to the universal dimension of the Church, they are stimulated to sentire cum Ecclesia, in profound harmony with the Successor of Peter.

I therefore urge you to put into action an ever greater and more enthusiastic capacity for loving and serving the Church. In this Easter Season let us ask the Risen Lord for the gift of his Spirit, and let us ask it sustained by the prayer of the Virgin Mary. May she who together with the Apostles in the Upper Room invoked the Paraclete obtain for you the gift of wisdom of heart and a fresh outpouring of heavenly gifts for the future that awaits you.

Through the intercession of the Mother of God and of St Teresa of Jesus and of St John of the Cross, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to the community of the Teresianum and to the entire Carmelite Family.


Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 21 May 2011

Your Eminences,
Rector Magnificent,
Distinguished Faculty Members and Representative of the Staff,
Dear Students,

I am very happy to have this meeting with you, who form the great family of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, born 90 years ago from the joyful insight of Fr Agostino Gemelli and the initiative of the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute for Higher Education, founding and guarantor body of the Athenaeum. I thank Cardinal Tettamanzi and Prof. Ornaghi for their warm words to me in the name of everyone.

Our time is one of intense and rapid change which also reflects on university life; the humanistic culture seems to be affected by a progressive decline, while the so-called “productive” disciplines, such as technological and economic studies, are emphasized. There is a tendency to reduce the human horizon to a measurable level and to eliminate the fundamental question of meaning from systematic and critical knowledge. Contemporary culture tends to exclude religion from rational spaces, to the extent that empirical sciences monopolize territories of reason. There does not seem to be room for reasons to believe; therefore the religious dimension is exiled to the realm of opinion and personal choice. In this context the very purpose and characteristics of the university are radically questioned.

Ninety years after its founding, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart finds itself at a historical turning point, in which it is important to consolidate and increase the reasons for which it was born, bringing with it an ecclesial connotation which is made evident by the adjective “Catholic”; the Church, indeed, “expert in humanity” is a promoter of authentic humanism. In this perspective the original vocation of the University emerges, born of the search for the truth, for the whole truth, for the whole truth of our existence. And by its obedience to the truth and to the demands of the knowledge of truth, it becomes a school of humanitas where vital understanding is cultivated, where mature character is fashioned and where valuable knowledge and skills are passed on. The Christian perspective does not set itself against scientific knowledge and the conquests of human intelligence; rather it considers faith the horizon of meaning, the way to full truth, the guide for authentic development. Without focusing on the truth, without an attitude of humble and ardent research, every culture crumbles, declines into relativism and loses itself in the ephemeral. Instead, the Christian prospective, pulled from the grip of reductionism which mortifies and circumscribes it, can open itself to an interpretation truly illuminated by what is real, offering an authentic service to life.

Dear friends, faith and culture are permanently connected heights, a manifestation of that desiderium naturale videndi Deum which is present in every person. When this union dissolves, humanity tends to fold in on itself and close itself to its own creative capacities. It is then necessary that there should be in the University a genuine passion for the question of the absolute, truth itself, and therefore theological knowledge, which is an integral part of the curriculum in your Athenaeum. Uniting in itself audacity for research and patience for growth, the theological horizon can and should value all the resources of reason. The question of the Truth and the Absolute — the question of God — is not an abstract investigation divorced from daily life, but it is the crucial question, on which the discovery of the meaning of the world and of life depends. The Gospel is the basis for a view of the world and the person that does not cease to emanate cultural, humanistic and ethical merits. Therefore, the knowledge of faith enlightens man’s search. This search is rendered human and integrated in works of good, tearing it from the temptation of the calculating thought which exploits knowledge and makes scientific discoveries a means of power and of enslavement to man.

The horizon which invigorates the work of the university can and should be an authentic passion for human beings. Only through service to others is science utilized to till and keep the universe (cf. Gen Gn 2,15). Serving others is living the truth in charity, it is loving life and respecting it, beginning with situations in which it is frail and defenceless. This is our duty, especially in times of crisis: the history of our culture demonstrates how human dignity was truly recognized in its totality to the light of Christian faith. The Catholic University is called to be a place which par excellence shapes that openness to knowledge, that passion for truth, that interest in the history of mankind which characterizes authentic Christian spirituality. Indeed, taking on a closed or detached attitude in the face of a perspective of faith means forgetting that throughout history it has been, and still is, a leaven of culture and light for intelligence, stimulus to develop all positive potentials for the authentic good of human beings. As the Second Vatican Council stated, faith is able to give light to existence, affirming: “For faith throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man, thus guiding the mind towards solutions that are fully human” (Gaudium et Spes GS 11).

The Catholic University is a place where this should occur with particular efficacy, under the scientific and didactic profile. This particular service to the Truth is a gift of grace and qualifying expression of evangelical charity. The demonstration of faith and the testimony of love are inseparable. The profound nucleus of the truth of God, in fact, is the love with which he bends over man, and in Christ, has offered gifts of infinite grace. In Jesus we discover that God is love and that only through love can we know him, as St John said: “For love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God” (1Jn 4,7). And as St Augustine states: “Non intratur in veritatem nisi per caritatem” (Contra Faustum, n. 32).

The summit of the knowledge of God is reached through love; love which goes to the root and is not satisfied with occasional philanthropic expressions, but illumines the meaning of life with the Truth of Christ, who transforms the heart of man and uproots selfishness which cause misery and death. Humans need love, humans need truth in order to not dispel the frail treasure of freedom and to be exposed to the violence of passion and to manipulation, both open and hidden (cf. John Paul II, Enc. Centesimus annus CA 46). The Christian faith does not make love a vague, sympathetic merciful feeling but a force able to illuminate the paths of life in all its expressions. Without this vision, without this primal and profound theological dimension, love is satisfied with occasional help and renounces its prophetic duty to transform the life of the person and the very structures of society. It is this specific task that the mission of the University calls you to fulfil as passionate protagonists, convinced that the power of the Gospel is capable of renewing human relations and penetrating hearts with reality.

Dear young university students of the “Cattolica”, you are a living example of that quality of faith which changes life and saves the world with its problems and hopes, questions and certainties, aspirations and involvement which the desire for a better life produce and which prayer nourishes. Dear representatives of the technical and administrative staff, be proud of the duties that are assigned to you in the context of the large university family in supporting the multi-faceted formative and professional activities. And to you, dear faculty, a decisive role is entrusted to you: to demonstrate how the Christian faith is a leaven of culture and light for intelligence, a stimulus to develop every positive potential for the authentic good of all. That which reason loses sight of, faith enlightens and manifests.

Contemplation of God’s work reveals to knowledge the demand for rational, systematic and critical investigation; the search for God strengthens love for secular arts and sciences: “Fides ratione adiuvatur et ratio fide perficitur” as Hugh of St Victor stated (De sacramentis, I, III, 30: pl 176, 232).

From this perspective the beating heart and constant nourishment of university life is the chapel, to which the Pastoral Centre is united where the spiritual assistants of the various campuses are called to perform their precious priestly mission which is essential to the Catholic University’s identity. As Bl. John Paul II taught, the chapel “is a place of the spirit, where believers in Christ, involved in different ways in academic study, can pause for prayer and find nourishment and direction. It is a training-ground for the Christian virtues, where the life received in Baptism grows and systematically develops. It is a welcoming and open home for all those who, heeding the voice of the Teacher within, become seekers of the truth and serve mankind by their daily commitment to a knowledge which goes beyond merely narrow and pragmatic goals. In the setting of a modernity in decline, the university chapel is called to be a vital centre for promoting the Christian renewal of culture, in respectful and frank dialogue, in a clear and well-grounded viewpoint (cf. 1P 3,15), in a witness which open to questioning and capable of convincing” (Address to European University Chaplains, 1 May 1998). Thus said John Paul II in 1998.

Dear friends, may the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in tune with the goals of the Toniolo Institute, continue on its path with renewed faith, effectively demonstrating that the light of the Gospel is a source of true culture able to spark energies of a new, integral and transcendent humanism. I entrust you to Mary Sedes Sapientae and with affection I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2005-13 8151