Benedict XVI Homilies 8106


Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this day when we celebrate the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, we conclude the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity united in fraternal liturgical assembly. It is meaningful that the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle to the Gentiles coincides with the final day of this important Week, in which we are asking God with particular intensity for the precious gift of unity among all Christians, making ours the invocation that Jesus himself raised to the Father for his disciples: "that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (
Jn 17,21).

The desire for unity on the part of every Christian Community and every individual believer and the power to achieve it is a gift of the Holy Spirit and goes hand in hand with a more profound and radical fidelity to the Gospel (cf. Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, UUS 15).

We realize that at the base of the commitment to ecumenism there is the conversion of heart, as the Second Vatican Council clearly affirms: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion. For it is from newness of attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love, that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way" (Decree Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7).

Deus caritas est (1Jn 4,8 1Jn 4,16), God is love. The faith of the Church, in its entirety, is founded on this solid rock. In particular, the patient pursuit of full communion among all of Christ's disciples is based upon it: by fixing one's gaze on this truth, summit of divine revelation, it seems possible to overcome divisions and not to be discouraged, even though they continue to be gravely serious.

The Lord Jesus, who broke down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Ep 2,14) with the blood of his Passion, will not fail to grant to those who faithfully invoke him the strength to heal every wound. But it is always necessary to start anew from this point: "Deus caritas est".

It is to the theme of love that I wanted to dedicate my first Encyclical, which was published today; this happy coincidence with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites us to consider, even more than our gathering together, the entire ecumenical journey in the light of God's love, of the Love that is God.

If, under the human profile, love manifests itself as an invincible force, what must we, who "know and believe the love God has for us" (1Jn 4,16), say?

True love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity that is not ordered from the outside but gives form from within, so to speak, to the whole.

As the mystery of communion unites man and woman in that community of love and life known as matrimony, it too forms the Church into a community of love, uniting a multiform wealth of gifts and traditions. The Church of Rome is placed at the service of that unity of love which, according to a saying by St Ignatius of Antioch, "presides in charity" (Ad Rom 1, 1).

Before you, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to renew today the entrustment to God of my particular Petrine ministry, invoking upon it the light and power of the Holy Spirit so that it will always encourage fraternal communion among all Christians.

The theme of love profoundly links the two short biblical readings of today's Liturgy of Vespers.

In the first, divine charity is the strength that transforms the life of Saul of Tarsus and makes him the Apostle to the Gentiles. Writing to the Christians at Corinth, St Paul confesses that God's grace worked the extraordinary event of conversion in him: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain" (1Co 15,10).

On the one hand, he feels the weight of having hindered the spread of Christ's message; but on the other, he lives in the joy of having met the Risen Lord and having been enlightened and transformed by his light. He keeps a constant memory of that life-changing event, an event so important for the entire Church that in the Acts of the Apostles reference is made to it three times (cf. Ac 9,3-9 Ac 22,6-11 Ac 26,12-18).

On the road to Damascus, Saul hears the disturbing question: "Why do you persecute me?". Falling to the ground and interiorly troubled, he asked: "Who are you, Lord?", receiving that answer which is the basis of his conversion: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Ac 9,4-5). Paul understood in an instant what he would later express in his writings: that the Church forms a single body of which Christ is the Head. And so, from a persecutor of Christians he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In the Gospel passage of Matthew that we heard a little while ago, love acts as the principle that unites Christians and guarantees that their unanimous prayer is heard by the Heavenly Father. Jesus says: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven" (Mt 18,19).

The word that the Evangelist uses for "agree" is synphonesosin: there is reference made to a "symphony" of hearts. This he took from the heart of God. Agreement in prayer is therefore important as it is welcomed by the Heavenly Father.

Asking together already marks a step towards unity between those who ask. This certainly does not mean that God's answer is in some way determined by our request. We know well: the hoped-for fulfilment of unity depends in the first place on the will of God, whose plan and generosity surpass the understanding of man and his own requests and expectations.

Relying precisely on divine goodness, let us intensify our common prayer for unity, which is more than ever a necessary and very effective means, as John Paul II reminded us in the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint: "Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ himself" (UUS 22).

Analyzing these passages in greater depth, we understand better the reason why the Father responds positively to the request of the Christian Community: "For", Jesus says, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them".

It is the presence of Christ that makes the common prayer of those gathered in his Name effective. When Christians gather to pray together, Jesus himself is in their midst. They are one with Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man.

The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy refers precisely to this Gospel passage to indicate one of the ways that Christ is present: "He is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised "where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them' (Mt 18,20)" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, SC 7).

Commenting on this text of the Evangelist Matthew, St John Chrysostom asks: "Well then, are there not two or three who gather in his name? There are", he responds, "but rarely" (Homily on the Gospel of St MT 60,3).

This evening I experience an immense joy in seeing such a large and prayerful assembly that implores the gift of unity in harmony.

To each and all I extend my cordial greeting. I greet with particular affection the brothers of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities of this City, united in the one Baptism that makes us members of the one Mystical Body of Christ.

Forty years have passed since, in this very Basilica on 5 December 1965, the Servant of God Paul VI, of happy memory, celebrated the first common prayer at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council with the solemn presence of the Council Fathers and the active participation of the Observers of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.

Following this, beloved John Paul II persevered in the tradition of closing the Week of Prayer here. I am certain that this evening both of them are looking down from Heaven and joining in our prayer.

Among those who are taking in this assembly I would especially like to greet and thank the group of Delegates from Churches, Episcopal Conferences, Christian Communities and Ecumenical Organizations that are beginning to prepare for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly to be held in Sìbiu, Romania, in September 2007 on the theme: "The light of Christ shines upon all. Hope for renewal and unity in Europe".

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, we Christians have the duty to be, in Europe and among all peoples, the "light of the world" (Mt 5,14). May God grant us a quick arrival at the hoped-for full communion.

The reformation of our unity will make evangelization more effective. Unity is our common mission; it is the condition that enables the light of Christ to be spread better in every corner of the world, so that men and women convert and are saved.

The road stretches before us! And yet, we must not lose trust; instead, with greater vigour we must once more continue our journey together. Christ walks before us and accompanies us. We count on his unfailing presence and humbly and tirelessly implore from him the precious gift of unity and peace.


Vatican Basilica, Thursday, 2 February 2006


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Feast of Jesus' Presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf.
Lc 2,22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him. We are in the presence of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new humanity.

The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is "the King of glory", "the Lord, mighty in battle" (Ps 24,7-8 [23]: 7, 8). But who is the powerful God who enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what the Law prescribed: the purification of the mother, the offering of the firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.

In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet Malachi: "The Lord... will suddenly come to his temple" (Ml 3,1). These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries. "The angel of the Covenant" at last entered his house and submitted to the Law: he came to Jerusalem to enter God's house in an attitude of obedience.

The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today. Christ, the mediator who unites God and man, abolishing distances, eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation, is presented to us here.

Christ comes as a new "merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (He 2,17). Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating solidarity with human beings.

While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to follow to the very end.
The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says: "In the days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications... to him who was able to save him from death.... Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (cf. He 5,7-9).

The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience, proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary. The Gospel text portrays her in the act of offering her Son: an unconditional offering that involves her in the first person.

Mary is the Mother of the One who is "the glory of [his] people Israel" and a "light for revelation to the Gentiles", but also "a sign that is spoken against" (cf. Lc 2,32). And in her immaculate soul, she herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son.

Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.

The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon: "My eyes have seen your salvation" (Lc 2,30), are echoed in the heart of the prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ's light, were able to see in the Child Jesus "the consolation of Israel" (Lc 2,25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a light that illuminates history.

Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart: for this reason he could contemplate the One whom numerous prophets and kings had desired to see: Christ, light of revelation for the Gentiles.

He recognized that Child as the Saviour, but he foresaw in the Spirit that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form one of the hymns of the newborn Church, radiant with the full communitarian and eschatological exultation of the fulfilment of the expectation of salvation. The enthusiasm was so great that to live and to die were one and the same, and the "light" and "glory" became a universal revelation.

Anna is a "prophetess", a wise and pious woman who interpreted the deep meaning of historical events and of God's message concealed within them. Consequently, she could "give thanks to God" and "[speak of the Child] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lc 2,38).

Her long widowhood devoted to worship in the temple, fidelity to weekly fasting and participation in the expectation of those who yearned for the redemption of Israel culminated in her meeting with the Child Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord the Church is celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life. This is an appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the precious gift represented by the consecrated life in its different forms; at the same time it is an incentive to encourage in all the People of God knowledge and esteem for those who are totally consecrated to God.

Indeed, just as Jesus' life in his obedience and dedication to the Father is a living parable of the "God-with-us", so the concrete dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes an eloquent sign for today's world of the presence of God's Kingdom.

Your way of living and working can vividly express full belonging to the one Lord; placing yourselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church is a strong and clear proclamation of God's presence in a language understandable to our contemporaries. This is the first service that the consecrated life offers to the Church and to the world. Consecrated persons are like watchmen among the People of God who perceive and proclaim the new life already present in our history.

I now address you in a special way, dear brothers and sisters who have embraced the vocation of special consecration, to greet you with affection and thank you warmly for your presence.

I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and to his collaborators who are concelebrating with me at this Holy Mass.

May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the joyful response to his freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated Woman, help you to live to the full your special vocation and mission in the Church for the world's salvation.




Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel [passage] we have just listened to (
Mc 1,29-39) begins with a very nice, beautiful episode but is also full of meaning. The Lord went to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew and found Peter's mother-in-law sick with a fever. He took her by the hand and raised her, the fever left her, and she served them.

Jesus' entire mission is symbolically portrayed in this episode. Jesus, coming from the Father, visited peoples' homes on our earth and found a humanity that was sick, sick with fever, the fever of ideologies, idolatry, forgetfulness of God. The Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up and heals us.

And he does so in all ages; he takes us by the hand with his Word, thereby dispelling the fog of ideologies and forms of idolatry. He takes us by the hand in the sacraments, he heals us from the fever of our passions and sins through absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He gives us the possibility to raise ourselves, to stand before God and before men and women. And precisely with this content of the Sunday liturgy, the Lord comes to meet us, he takes us by the hand, raises us and heals us ever anew with the gift of his words, the gift of himself.

But the second part of this episode is also important. This woman who has just been healed, the Gospel says, begins to serve them. She sets to work immediately to be available to others, and thus becomes a representative of so many good women, mothers, grandmothers, women in various professions, who are available, who get up and serve and are the soul of the family, the soul of the parish.

And here, on looking at the painting above the altar, we see that they do not only perform external services; St Anne is introducing her great daughter, Our Lady, to the Sacred Scriptures, to the hope of Israel, for which she was precisely to be the place of its fulfilment.

Moreover, women were the first messengers of the word of God in the Gospel, they were true evangelists. And it seems to me that this Gospel, with this apparently very modest episode, is offering us in this very Church of St Anne an opportunity to say a heartfelt "thank you" to all the women who care for the parish, the women who serve in all its dimensions, who help us to know the Word of God ever anew, not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

Let us return to the Gospel: Jesus slept at Peter's house, but he rose before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted place to pray. And here the true centre of the mystery of Jesus appears.

Jesus was conversing with the Father and raised his human spirit in communion with the Person of the Son, so that the humanity of the Son, united to him, might speak in the Trinitarian dialogue with the Father; and thus, he also made true prayer possible for us. In the liturgy Jesus prays with us, we pray with Jesus, and so we enter into real contact with God, we enter into the mystery of eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity.

Jesus speaks to the Father: this is the source and centre of all Jesus' activities; we see his preaching, his cures, his miracles and lastly the Passion, and they spring from this centre of his being with the Father.

And in this way this Gospel teaches us that the centre of our faith and our lives is indeed the primacy of God. Whenever God is not there, the human being is no longer respected either. Only if God's splendour shines on the human face, is the human image of God protected by a dignity which subsequently no one must violate.

The primacy of God. Let us see how the first three requests in the "Our Father" refer precisely to this primacy of God: that God's Name be sanctified, that respect for the divine mystery be alive and enliven the whole of our lives; that "may God's Kingdom come" and "may [his] will be done" are two sides of the same coin; where God's will is done Heaven already exists, a little bit of Heaven also begins on earth, and where God's will is done the Kingdom of God is present.

Since the Kingdom of God is not a series of things, the Kingdom of God is the presence of God, the person's union with God. It is to this destination that Jesus wants to guide us.

The centre of his proclamation is the Kingdom of God, that is, God as the source and centre of our lives, and he tells us: God alone is the redemption of man. And we can see in the history of the last century that in the States where God was abolished, not only was the economy destroyed, but above all the souls.

Moral destruction and the destruction of human dignity are fundamental forms of destruction, and renewal can only come from God's return, that is, from recognition of God's centrality.

A Bishop from the Congo on an ad limina visit in these days said to me: Europeans generously give us many things for development, but there is a hesitation in helping us in pastoral ministry; it seems as though they considered pastoral ministry useless, that only technological and material development were important. But the contrary is true, he said; where the Word of God does not exist, development fails to function and has no positive results. Only if God's Word is put first, only if man is reconciled with God, can material things also go smoothly.

The continuation of the Gospel itself powerfully confirms this. The Apostles said to Jesus: come back, everyone is looking for you. And he said no, I must go on to the next towns that I may proclaim God and cast out demons, the forces of evil; for that is why I came.

Jesus came - the Greek text says, "I came out from the Father" - not to bring us the comforts of life but to bring the fundamental condition of our dignity, to bring us the proclamation of God, the presence of God, and thus to overcome the forces of evil. He indicated this priority with great clarity: I did not come to heal - I also do this, but as a sign -, I came to reconcile you with God. God is our Creator, God has given us life, our dignity: and it is above all to him that we must turn.

And as Fr Gioele has said, today, the Church in Italy is celebrating Pro-Life Day. In their Message, the Italian Bishops have wanted to recall the priority duty to "respect life", since it is a "unavailable" good. Man is not the master of life; rather, he is its custodian and steward, and under God's primacy, this priority of administrating and preserving human life, created by God, comes automatically into being.

This truth that man is the custodian and steward of life is a clearly defined point of natural law, fully illumined by biblical revelation. It appears today as a "sign of contradiction" in comparison with the prevalent mindset. Indeed, we note that although there is broad convergence generally on the value of life, yet when this point is reached, that is, the point of the "availability" or "unavailability" to life, the two mindsets are irreconcilably opposed.

In simpler terms, we might say: one of the two mindsets maintains that human life is in human hands, whereas the other recognizes that it is in God's hands. Modern culture has legitimately emphasized the autonomy of the human person and earthly realities, thereby developing a perspective dear to Christianity, the Incarnation of God.

However, as the Second Vatican Council clearly asserted, if this autonomy leads us to think that "material being does not depend on God and that man can use it as if it had no relation to its Creator", a deep imbalance will result, for "without a Creator there can be no creature" (Gaudium et Spes GS 36).

It is significant that in the passage cited, the conciliar Document states that this capacity to recognize the voice and manifestation of God in the beauty of creation belongs to all believers, regardless of their religion. From this we can conclude that full respect for life is linked to a religious sense, to the inner attitude with which the human being faces reality, as master or as custodian.

Moreover, the word "respect" derives from the Latin word respicere, to look at, and means a way of looking at things and people that leads to recognizing their substantial character, not to appropriate them but rather to treat them with respect and to take care of them.

In the final analysis, if creatures are deprived of their reference to God as a transcendent basis, they risk being at the mercy of the will of man who, as we see, can make an improper use of it.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke together St Anne's intercession for your parish community, which I greet with affection.

I greet in particular your Parish Priest, Fr Gioele, and I thank him for his words to me at the beginning. I then greet the Augustinian confreres with their Prior General; I greet Archbishop Angelo Comastri, my Vicar General for Vatican City, Archbishop Rizzato, my Almoner, and everyone present, especially the children, young people and all those who regularly use this church.

May St Anne, your heavenly Patroness, watch over you all and obtain for each one the gift of being a witness of the God of life and love.


Ash Wednesday , 1st March 2006

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

The penitential procession with which we began today's celebration has helped us enter the typical atmosphere of Lent, which is a personal and community pilgrimage of conversion and spiritual renewal.

According to the very ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stationes, during this season the faithful, together with the pilgrims, gather every day and make a stop - statio - at one of the many "memorials" of the Martyrs on which the Church of Rome is founded.

In the Basilicas where their relics are exposed, Holy Mass is celebrated, preceded by a procession during which the litanies of the Saints are sung. In this way, all those who bore witness to Christ with their blood are commemorated, and calling them to mind then becomes an incentive for each Christian to renew his or her own adherence to the Gospel.

These rites retain their value, despite the passing centuries, because they recall how important it also is in our day to accept Jesus' words without compromises: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (
Lc 9,23).

Another symbolic rite, an exclusive gesture proper to the first day of Lent, is the imposition of ashes. What is its most significant meaning?

It is certainly not merely ritualistic, but something very deep that touches our hearts. It makes us understand the timeliness of the Prophet Joel's advice echoed in the First Reading, advice that still retains its salutary value for us: external gestures must always be matched by a sincere heart and consistent behaviour.

Indeed, the inspired author wonders, what use is it to tear our garments if our hearts remain distant from the Lord, that is, from goodness and justice? Here is what truly counts: to return to God with a sincerely contrite heart to obtain his mercy (cf. Jl 2,12-18).

A new heart and a new spirit: we ask for this with the penitential Psalm par excellence, the Miserere, which we sing today with the response, "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned" (The Sunday Missal).

The true believer, aware of being a sinner, aspires with his whole self - spirit, heart and body - to divine forgiveness, as to a new creation that can restore joy and hope to him (cf. Ps 51[50]: Ps 51,3 Ps 51,5 Ps 51,12 Ps 51,14).

Another aspect of Lenten spirituality is what we could describe as "combative", as emerges in today's "Collect", where the "weapons" of penance and the "battle" against evil are mentioned.

Every day, but particularly in Lent, Christians must face a struggle, like the one that Christ underwent in the desert of Judea, where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil, and then in Gethsemane, when he rejected the most severe temptation, accepting the Father's will to the very end.

It is a spiritual battle waged against sin and finally, against Satan. It is a struggle that involves the whole of the person and demands attentive and constant watchfulness.

St Augustine remarks that those who want to walk in the love of God and in his mercy cannot be content with ridding themselves of grave and mortal sins, but "should do the truth, also recognizing sins that are considered less grave..., and come to the light by doing worthy actions. Even less grave sins, if they are ignored, proliferate and produce death" (In Io. evang. 12, 13, 35).

Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the "weapons" of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.

Following the divine Teacher in docility makes Christians witnesses and apostles of peace. We might say that this inner attitude also helps us to highlight more clearly what response Christians should give to the violence that is threatening peace in the world.

It should certainly not be revenge, nor hatred nor even flight into a false spiritualism. The response of those who follow Christ is rather to take the path chosen by the One who, in the face of the evils of his time and of all times, embraced the Cross with determination, following the longer but more effective path of love.

Following in his footsteps and united to him, we must all strive to oppose evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love.

In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to present this love as the secret of our personal and ecclesial conversion. Referring to Paul's words to the Corinthians, "the love of Christ urges us on" (2Co 5,14), I stressed that "the consciousness that, in Christ, God has given himself for us, even unto death, must inspire us to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others" ().

Furthermore, love, as Jesus says today in the Gospel, must be expressed in practical acts for our neighbour, and especially for the poor and the needy, always subordinating the value of "good works" to the sincerity of the relationship with our "Father who is in Heaven", who "sees in secret" and "will reward" all whose good actions are humble and disinterested (cf. Mt 6,1 Mt 6,4 Mt 6,6 Mt 6,18).

The manifestation of love is one of the essential elements in the life of Christians who are encouraged by Jesus to be the light of the world, so that by seeing their "good works", people give glory to God (cf. Mt 5,16).

This recommendation to us is particularly appropriate at the beginning of Lent, so that we may understand better and better that "for the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity... but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (Deus Caritas est ).

True love is expressed in acts that exclude no one, after the example of the Good Samaritan who, with great openness of heart, helped a stranger in difficulty whom he had met "by chance" along the way (cf. Lc 10,31).

Your Eminences, venerable Brothers in the Epsicopate and in the Priesthood, dear men and women religious and lay faithful, all of whom I greet with warm cordiality, may we enter the typical atmosphere of this liturgical period with these sentiments, allowing the Word of God to enlighten and guide us.

In Lent we will often hear re-echoing the invitation to convert and to believe in the Gospel, and we will be constantly encouraged to open our spirit to the power of divine grace. Let us cherish the abundance of teachings that the Church will be offering us in these weeks.

Enlivened by a strong commitment to prayer, determined to make a greater effort of penance, fasting and loving attention to our brethren, let us set out towards Easter accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every authentic disciple of Christ.


Benedict XVI Homilies 8106