Benedict XVI Homilies 21110


Altar of the Chair, St Peter's Basilica, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” (Da 12,2).

The words of the Prophet Daniel that we have just heard are a clear Biblical testimony to faith in the resurrection of the dead. The prophetic vision looks to the end of time: after a period of great anguish God will save his People. Nevertheless, salvation will only be for those whose names are written in “the book of life”.

The horizon which Daniel describes is that of the people of the Covenant who, in times of difficulty, trial and persecution, must take their place before God, standing firm in the faith of the Fathers or renouncing it. The Prophet announces a twofold destiny, proclaiming that some will reawaken to “everlasting life” and others to “everlasting disgrace”. God's justice is therefore emphasized; it does not permit those who have given their life to God to lose it for ever.

This is Jesus' teaching: those who accept to put the Kingdom of God first, who can leave their home, father or mother for it and are prepared to lay down their life for this precious treasure will inherit eternal life (cf. Mt 19,29 Lc 9,24).

Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, all the faithful, in the light of Christ, our Life and Resurrection, today we are celebrating the Funeral Mass of dear and venerable Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, who completed his long and fruitful earthly pilgrimage last Monday, at the age of 90. He belongs, as we like to think, to the throng of those who spent their days without reservation for the Kingdom of God, and for this reason we are confident that his name is now written in “the book of life”.

And those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Da 12,3).

With a moved and grateful spirit, I desire at this moment to remember the late Cardinal as a “teacher of justice”. The meticulous study and passionate teaching of canon law were a central element in his life. Teaching, especially the younger generations, about the true justice of Christ and of the Gospel: this is the ministry which Cardinal Navarrete exercised throughout his life. He generously dedicated himself to this, giving himself with humble willingness in the various situations in which obedience and God's Providence had placed him: from university classrooms, in particular as an expert in matrimonial law, to the office of Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, to the important and responsible office of Rector Magnificent of the same athenaeum. I am likewise keen to underline his attention to important ecclesial events including the Diocesan Synod in Rome and the Second Vatican Council, as well as his competent scientific contribution to the revision of the Code of Canon Law and his fruitful collaboration with various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in the capacity of a valued consultor.

Regarding his priestly and religious vocation, Cardinal Navarrete said with simplicity in a recent interview: “I have never doubted my decision. Nor have I ever had doubts that this was not my path, not even in moments of strife” or difficulty. This affirmation sums up the generous fidelity of this servant of the Church to the call of the Lord and to the will of God. With his characteristic poise he used to say that there were three fundamental principles which guided him in his studies: great love for the past, for tradition, because someone in the scientific and particular in the ecclesiastical field who does not love the past is like a child without parents; secondly, his sensibility to problems, requirements, challenges of the present, where God has placed us; lastly, his capacity for looking out and opening himself to the future without fear but with the hope that comes with faith. This profoundly Christian vision guided his commitment to God and to the Church, in teaching and in his works.

But God, who is rich in mercy... made us alive together with Christ” (Ep 2,4).

Illuminated by St Paul's words which we have heard in the Second Reading, we turn our gaze to the mystery of the Incarnation, Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ, where our authentic justice lies, a gift of God’s. Divine grace poured out abundantly for us through the saving blood of the crucified Christ, who cleanses us from our sins, frees us from death and opens the gates of eternal life. The Apostle forcefully repeats: “by grace you have been saved” (Ep 2,5), by the gift of abundant love of the Father who sacrificed his Son. In Christ, man finds the way of salvation and human history receives its point of reference and its profound meaning. Today we remember Cardinal Urbano Navarrete in this horizon of hope. He fell asleep in the Lord at the end of an active life, in which he ceaselessly professed faith in this mystery of love, proclaiming to all with the word and with life: “by grace you have been saved” (ibid Ep 2,5).

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me” (Jn 17,24).

Christ's ardent and salvific will illumines life after death. Jesus wants those whom God gave to him to be with him and to contemplate his glory. Therefore, there is a destiny of happiness, of full union with God, which leads to the faithfulness with which we are united with Jesus Christ on our earthly journey. It will mean entering into the Communion of Saints where they reign in peace and joy, taking part together in Christ’s glory.

The shining truth of faith in eternal life comforts us every time we offer our final farewell to a deceased brother. Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, a spiritual son of St Ignatius of Loyola, is one of the faithful disciples that the Father gave to Christ “so that they may be with him”, he was “with Jesus” in the course of his long life and knew his Name (cf. Jn 17,26).

He loved living in intimate union with him, especially in prolonged moments of prayer in which he drew from the source of salvation the strength to be faithful to God’s will in every circumstance, even the most adverse. He learned this at home as a child, thanks to the luminous example of his parents, especially his father. His parents knew how to provide an atmosphere of profound Christian faith in their family, fostering in their six children, two Jesuits and three religious, the courage to witness to their faith, preferring nothing to the love of Christ and doing everything for the greater glory of God.

Dear friends, it is this gaze of faith that sustained the long life of our venerable Brother and it is this faith that he preached. Let us turn to God, rich in mercy, so that Cardinal Urbano Navarrete's faith may now become a vision, a face-to-face encounter with him, in whose love he cold recognize and seek the fulfilment of every law.

Let us entrust his soul to the intercession of the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. We may be certain that she, Speculum iustitiae, will welcome him, to introduce him into God’s Heaven where he will enjoy for ever the fullness of peace. Amen.


Vatican Basilica Saturday, 27 November 2010


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this evening celebration the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new Liturgical Year, starting with its first season: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord.

In this Advent Season we shall be granted once again to experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and who cared for us to the point of deigning to become a man.

This great and fascinating mystery of the God-with-us, indeed, of the God who becomes one of us, is what we shall celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church which takes us by the hand and — in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her motherhood, enabling us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts look forward to the annual celebration of Christ’s Birth, the Church’s Liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord who will come in the splendour of glory. For this reason in every Eucharist we “announce his death, proclaim his Resurrection until he comes again”, we watch in prayer.

The Liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole of Sacred Scripture ends, on the last page of the Revelation to St John: “Come, Lord Jesus” (
Ap 22,20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our gathering this evening for the beginning of the journey through Advent is enriched by another important reason: together with the whole Church we wish to celebrate a solemn prayer vigil for unborn life. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have accepted this invitation and to those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in its various situations of frailty, especially when it is newly conceived and in its early stages.

Precisely, the beginning of the Liturgical Year helps us live anew the expectation of God who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself little, who becomes a child; it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is close, who chose to experience human life from the very beginning in order to save it totally, in its fullness. And so the mystery of Lord’s Incarnation and the beginning of human life are closely and harmoniously connected and in tune with each other in the one saving plan of God, the Lord of the life of each and everyone.

The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in a surprising way, that every human life has a very lofty and incomparable dignity.

In comparison with all the other living beings that populate the earth man has an unmistakable originality. He is presented as the one unique being, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as consisting of material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in both the spiritual and the corporal dimension.

This is also suggested in the text of the First Letter to the Thessalonians that has just been proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself”, St Paul writes, “sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th 5,23).

We are therefore spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limitations of our material condition, while at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome him within us. We are active in earthly realities and through them we are able to perceive God’s presence and to reach out to him, Truth, Goodness and absolute Beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and yearn for complete fulfilment.

God loves us deeply, totally and without making distinctions. He calls us to friendship with him, he makes us part of a reality beyond every imagination and every thought and word: his divine life itself.

With feeling and gratitude, let us be aware of the value of every human person’s incomparable dignity and of our great responsibility to all. “Christ, the final Adam”, the Second Vatican Council states, “by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear… by his Incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man” (Gaudium et Spes GS 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means seeing man in a new way, with trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and right reason testify that the human being is capable of understanding and of wanting, conscious of himself and free, unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly realities, and who demands to be recognized as a value in himself and deserves always to be accepted with respect and love. He is entitled not to be treated as an object to be possessed or a thing to be manipulated at will, and not to be exploited as a means for the benefit of others and their interests.

The human person is a good in himself and his integral development must always be sought. Love for all, moreover, if it is sincere, tends spontaneously to become preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. This explains the Church’s concern for the unborn, the frailest, those most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences.

The Church continually reasserts what the Second Vatican Council declared against abortion and against every violation of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care” (ibid., GS 51).

Cultural trends exist that seek to anaesthetize consciences with spurious arguments. With regard to the embryo in the mother's womb, science itself highlights its autonomy, its capacity for interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism.

It is not an accumulation of biological material but rather of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is what Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is what we all were in our mother’s womb. We may say with Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer: “the one who will be a man is one already” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to neglect, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence and exploitation. The many violations of their rights sorrowfully wound the conscience of every person of good will.

In the face of the sad view of injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make my own Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (Encyclical Evangelium vitae EV 5).

I urge politicians, leaders of the economy and of social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture ever respectful of human life, to obtain favourable conditions and support networks for the acceptance and development of life.

Let us entrust our prayers and our commitment to unborn life to the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with her faith, with her maternal womb, with her attentive care, with her nurturing support, vibrant with love.

Let us do so in the Liturgy — which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us — adoring the divine Eucharist in which we contemplate Christ’s Body, that Body which took flesh from Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit, and was born of her in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

                                                                                  December 2010

                                  : HOLY MASS OF SUFFRAGE FOR MANUELA CAMAGNI

Pauline Chapel Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last days of her life, our beloved Manuela spoke of the fact that 29 November would be her 30th anniversary as a member of the Memores Domini community. And she said this with great joy, preparing herself – this was the impression she gave – for an inner celebration of this 30-year journey towards the Lord, in the communion of the Lord’s friends. The celebration, however, was different from the one she had foreseen: on 29 November we took her to the cemetery, we sang that the Angels would accompany her to Heaven, we led her to the definitive celebration, to the great feast of God, to the Nuptials of the Lamb. For 30 years she had been on her way towards the Lord, entering the celebration of the Lord.

Manuela was a “wise and prudent virgin”, she carried oil in her lamp, the oil of faith, a faith lived, a faith nourished by prayer, by conversation with the Lord, by meditation on the word of God, by communion in friendship with Christ. And this faith was hope and wisdom, it was the certainty that faith opens up the true future. And faith was charity; it was giving herself for others, living in the service of the Lord for others. I, personally, must give thanks for her willingness to devote her efforts to work in my house with a spirit of charity and hope that comes from faith.

She entered the feast of the Lord as a prudent and wise virgin because she had not lived in the superficiality of those who forget the greatness of our vocation, but in the great vision of eternal life, and thus she was prepared for the Lord’s arrival.

Thirty years a Memores Domini; St Bonaventure says that the memory of the Creator is engraved in the depths of our being. And precisely because this memory is engraved in our being, we can recognize the Creator in his creation, we can remember him, we can see traces of him in this cosmos that he created. St Bonaventure also says that this remembrance of the Creator is not only remembrance of the past, because the origins are present, it is a memory of the Lord’s presence. It is also a memory of the future, because it is the certainty that we come from the goodness of God and are called to reach the goodness of God. In this memory, therefore, the element of joy is present, our origins in the joy that is God and our call to reach his great joy.

And we know that Manuela was a person inwardly penetrated by joy, that very joy which derives from the memory of God. However St Bonaventure adds that our memory, like the whole of our life, is also wounded by sin: so it is that the memory is clouded and covered by other superficial memories. We can no longer go beyond these other superficial memories to the very bottom, to the true memory that sustains our being. Therefore, because of this obliviousness of God, this forgetfulness of our fundamental memory, joy too is concealed, darkened. Yes, we know that we are created for joy, but we no longer know where to find joy and we seek it in various places. Today we see this desperate quest for joy that drifts ever further away from its true source, from true joy. Forgetfulness of God, forgetfulness of our true memory. Manuela was not one of those who had forgotten this memory. She lived in the living memory of the Creator, in the joy of his creation, seeing the transparency of God in all creation, even in the daily events of our lives, and she knew that from this memory — present and future — comes joy.

Memores Domini. The Memores Domini know that on the eve of his Passion, Christ renewed, indeed uplifted our memory. “Do this in memory of me”, he said, and thus he gave us the memory of his Presence, the memory of his gift of himself, of the gift of his Body and of his Blood, and in this gift of his Body and his Blood, in this gift of his infinite love with our memory we touch once again the stronger presence of God, his gift of himself. As a Memores Domini, Manuela actually experienced this living memory, that the Lord gives himself with his Body and renews our knowledge of God.

In the controversy of the Sadducees concerning the Resurrection, the Lord said to them — who did not believe in it: but God called himself the “God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob”. The three are part of God’s name, they are inscribed in God’s name, they are in God’s name, in the memory of God, and thus the Lord says: God is not a God of the dead, he is a God of the living, and those who are part of God’s name, who are in the memory of God, are alive. We, human beings, with our memory, can unfortunately only preserve a shadow of the people we have loved. The memory of God, however, does not preserve only shadows, it is the origin of life; here the dead are alive, in his life and with his life they have entered the memory of God which is life. The Lord says this to us today: you are inscribed in the name of God, you live in God with true life, you live by the true source of life. Thus we are comforted in this moment of grief. And the Liturgy renewed after the Council dares to teach us also to sing “Alleluia” in the Mass for the Dead. This is bold! We feel above all the sorrow of loss, we feel above all the absence, the past, but the Liturgy knows that we are in the Body of Christ itself and live on the memory of God which is our memory.

In this interweaving of his memory and our memory we are together, we are alive. Let us pray the Lord that we may feel this communion of memory more and more, that our memory of God in Christ may become ever more alive, and thus that we may feel that our true life is in him and that in him we all remain united. In this sense let us sing “Alleluia”, certain that the Lord is life and that his love is never ending. Amen.


Third Sunday of Advent, 12 December 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of San Massimiliano Kolbe,

You are deeply living your personal and community commitment to follow the Lord. Advent is a strong invitation to everyone to let God come increasingly into our lives, our houses, our neighbourhoods and our communities in order to have light in the midst of the many shadows, in the numerous daily efforts.

Dear friends, I am very glad to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of joy.

I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, your Parish Priest, whom I thank for his words on behalf of you all, and the Parochial Vicar.

I greet all those who are active in the parish context: the catechists and the members of various groups including the Neocatechumenal Way. I deeply appreciate your decision to make room for Eucharistic adoration and I thank you for the prayers you say for me before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I would like to extend my thoughts to all the inhabitants of the district, especially the elderly, the sick and those who are alone or in difficulty. I remember each and every one at this Mass.

I join you in admiring your new church and the parish buildings, and I wish to encourage you by my presence to bring ever better into being that Church of living stones which you yourselves are.

I know of the many important evangelization projects that you are carrying out. I urge all the faithful to make their own contribution to the edification of the community, in particular in the field of catechesis, the liturgy and charity — pillars of Christian life — in communion with the whole Diocese of Rome. No community can live as a cell isolated from the diocesan context; instead the community must be a living expression of the beauty of the Church which, under the guidance of the Bishop — and in the parish, under the guidance of the Parish Priest who acts in his place — journeys on in communion towards the Kingdom of God.

I address a special thought to families, accompanying them with the wish that they may totally fulfil their vocation to love, and with generosity and perseverance. Even when difficulties arise in conjugal life and in the relationship with their children, married couples must never cease to stay faithful to that fundamental “yes” which they said before God and to each other on their wedding day, remembering that faithfulness to one’s vocation demands courage, generosity and sacrifice.

Your community includes many families from Central and Southern Italy who have come in search of work and better standards of living. As time has passed the community has grown and has changed, to a certain extent, with the arrival of many people from the Eastern European countries and from many other countries.

On the basis of this practical situation in the parish, make an effort to grow constantly in communion with all: it is important to create opportunities for dialogue and to foster understanding among people from different cultures, backgrounds and social conditions.

Yet, above all, it is necessary to try to involve them in Christian life, through a pastoral care attentive to the true needs of each person. Here, as in every parish, it is necessary to start with those who are “close” in order to reach out to those who are “distant” so as to bring an evangelical presence to the milieus of life and work.

All must be able to find in the parish an adequate means of formation and must be able to experience that community dimension which is a fundamental characteristic of Christian life. In this way they will be encouraged to rediscover the beauty of following Christ and of belonging to his Church.

May you therefore be able to make a community with them all, united in listening to the Word of God and in the celebration of the sacraments and of the Eucharist in particular. In this regard the pastoral verification of the diocese that is under way, on the theme: “Sunday Eucharist and the witness of charity”, is a propitious opportunity to examine deeply and live better these two fundamental components of the life and mission of the Church and of every individual believer, that is, the Sunday Eucharist and the practice of charity.

Gathered round the Eucharist, it is easier to feel that the mission of every Christian community is to take the message of God’s love to all human beings. This is why it is important that the Eucharist always be at the heart of the faithful’s life.

I would also like to address a special word of affection and friendship to you, dear children and young people who are listening to me, and to your peers who live in this Parish. The Church expects much of you, of your enthusiasm, of your capacity for looking ahead and of your desire for radicalism in life’s decisions. May you feel you are real protagonists in the parish, putting your fresh energies and your whole life at the service of God and of the brethren.

Dear brothers and sisters, next to the invitation to rejoice, today’s Liturgy, with the words of St James that we have heard, also asks us to be constant and patient in waiting for the Lord who comes and to be so together, as a community, avoiding complaints and criticism (cf.
Jc 5,7-10).

In the Gospel we heard the question asked by John the Baptist who was in prison: John, who had proclaimed the coming of the Judge who would change the world, and now felt had that the world has remained the same. Thus he sends word to Jesus asking: “Are you ‘He who is to come’, or shall we look for another?”. Is it you or should we expect another?

In the past two or three centuries many have asked: “But is it really you? Or must the world be changed in a more radical manner? Will you not do it?”.

And a great tide of prophets, ideologists and dictators have come and said: “It is not him! He did not change the world! It is we!”. And they created their empires, their dictatorships, their totalitarianism which was supposed to change the world. And they changed it, but in a destructive manner. Today we know that of these great promises nothing remained but a great void and great destruction. It was not they.

And thus we must see Christ again and ask Christ: “Is it you?” The Lord, in his own silent way, answers: “You see what I did, I did not start a bloody revolution, I did not change the world with force; but lit many I, which in the meantime form a pathway of light through the millenniums”.

Let us start here in our Parish with St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered to die of hunger himself in order to save the father of a family. What a great light he became! How much light shone from this figure and encouraged others to give themselves, to be close to the suffering and the oppressed!

Let us think of Damien de Veuster who was a father to lepers, and who lived and died with and for lepers, and has thus brought light to this community.

Let us think of Mother Teresa, who gave so much light to people that, after a life without light, they died with a smile because they were touched by the light of God’s love.

And thus we shall be able to continue and we shall see, as the Lord said in his answer to John, that it is not the violent revolution of the world, but rather the silent light of the truth, of the goodness of God that is the sign of his presence and gives us the certainty that we are loved to the end and are not forgotten, that we are not a product of chance but of a will to love.

Thus we may live, we may feel God’s nearness. “God is close”, says today’s First Reading, he is near us but we are often distant. Let us draw near, let us move into the presence of his light, let us pray the Lord that through contact with him in prayer we ourselves will become light for others.

And this is precisely also the meaning of the parish church: to enter here, to enter into conversation, into contact with Jesus, with the Son of God, so that we ourselves may become one of the smallest lights that he has lit to carry his light into the world which feels it must be redeemed.

Our spirit must be open to this invitation and let us thus walk joyfully towards Christmas, like the Virgin Mary who awaited the Redeemer’s birth in prayer, with intimate and joyful trepidation.



St Peter's Basilica Thursday, 16 December 2010

16120 “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (Jc 5,7).

With these words the Apostle James has ushered us into the process of immediate preparation for Holy Christmas which, at this Vespers Liturgy, I have the joy of beginning with you, dear students and distinguished teachers of the Athenaeums of Rome.

I address my cordial greeting to you all and in particular to the large group of those who are preparing to receive Confirmation. I express my deep appreciation of your dedication to the Christian animation of our City’s culture. I thank Prof. Renato Lauro, Rector Magnificent of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, for his words of greeting to me on behalf of you all. I address a special and respectful greeting to the Cardinal Vicar and to the various academic and institutional Authorities.

The invitation of the Apostle points out to us the way that leads to Bethlehem, freeing our hearts from every ferment of intolerance and false expectation which can always lurk within us if we forget that God has already come. He is already at work in our personal and community story and asks to be received.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has revealed himself, he has shown his Face and has taken up residence in our flesh, in Jesus, Son of Mary — true God and true man — whom we shall meet once again in the Grotto of Bethlehem. To return there, to that humble, narrow place, is not merely a journey in spirit: it is the path we are called to take, experiencing this day God’s closeness and his action that renews and sustains our existence.

Christian patience and constancy, of which St James speaks, are not synonymous with apathy or resignation; rather, they are virtues of those who know that they can and must not build on sand but on the rock; virtues of those who can respect the times and ways of the human condition and therefore avoid clouding the deepest expectations of the mind with utopian or transient hopes that subsequently disappoint.

“Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth” (Jc 5,7). Dear friends, this invitation which refers to the rural world and which marks time with nature’s seasons may sound surprising to us, immersed as we are in an ever more dynamic society.

Yet the comparison the Apostle chose calls us to turn our gaze to the one true “farmer”, the God of Jesus Christ, to his most profound mystery which was revealed in the Incarnation of the Son. Indeed, the Creator of all things is not a despot who orders and intervenes peremptorily in history; rather, he is like a farmer who sows the seed and tends it while it grows so it may bear fruit.

With him, man too can be a good farmer who loves history and builds it in depth, recognizing and contributing to the growth of the seeds of good that the Lord has given to us. So let us too journey on to Bethlehem, our eyes fixed on God, patient and faithful, who knows how to wait, how to stop and how to respect the seasons of our existence. The Child whom we shall meet is the full manifestation of the mystery of love of God, who loves by giving his life, who loves in a disinterested manner, who teaches us to love and asks only to be loved.

“Strengthen your hearts”. The journey to the Grotto of Bethlehem is a journey of inner liberation, an experience of profound freedom, because it impels us to come out of ourselves and to go towards God who has made himself close to us, who heartens us with his presence and with his freely-given love, who precedes and accompanies us in our daily decisions, who speaks to us in the secrecy of our hearts and in the Sacred Scriptures.

He wants to imbue our lives with courage, especially in the moments when we feel tired and overworked, and need to rediscover the serenity of the journey and feel joyfully that we are pilgrims bound for eternity.

“The Lord’s coming is at hand”. This is the announcement that fills this celebration with emotion, as well as hastening our steps on the way to the Grotto. The Child we shall find between Mary and Joseph is the Logos-Love, the Word who can give our life its full consistence.

God has opened for us the treasures of his profound silence and, with his Word, has communicated himself to us. In Bethlehem the everlasting today of God brushes against our fleeting time that receives from it orientation and light for the journey through life.

Dear friends of the universities of Rome who are walking on the fascinating and demanding path of research and cultural creativity, the Incarnate Word asks you to share with him the patience of “building”. Building your own lives and building society are not tasks that can be accomplished by distracted or superficial minds and hearts. They require profound educational action and continuous discernment that must involve the whole of the academic community, encouraging that synthesis between intellectual formation, moral discipline and religious commitment which Bl. John Henry Newman proposed in his The Idea of a University.

People in our time feel the need for a new class of intellectuals who can interpret social and cultural dynamics by offering solutions that are practical and realistic, rather than abstract.

The university is called to play this indispensable role and the Church gives it her convinced and effective support. The Church of Rome, in particular, has been for many years devoted to supporting the university’s vocation and to serving it with the simple and discreet contribution of numerous priests who work in the chaplaincies and institutions of the Church.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Cardinal Vicar and to his collaborators for the pastoral programme of university ministry which, this year, in tune with the diocesan project is summed up succinctly by the theme: “Ite, missa est... in the courtyard of the Gentiles”.

The greeting at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, “Ite, missa est”, invites everyone to be witnesses of that love which transforms human life and thereby grafts in society the shoot of the civilization of love. Your programme that offers the City of Rome a culture at the service of the integral development of the human person, as I pointed out in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, is a concrete example of your commitment to promoting academic communities in which one develops and practises what Giovanni Battista Montini — when he was Chaplain to FUCI — called “intellectual charity”.

The community of the Roman universities, with its wealth of State, private, Catholic and Pontifical institutions, is called to perform an important historical task: to overcome the assumptions and prejudices that sometimes prevent the development of authentic culture.

By working in synergy, in particular with the theological faculties, the Roman universities can show that a new dialogue and new collaboration are possible between the Christian faith and the various branches of knowledge, without confusion and without separation but sharing the same aspiration to serve the human being in his fullness.

I hope that the forthcoming International Symposium on the theme: “The university and the challenge of knowledge: towards what future?” will constitute an important stage on this renewed journey of research and commitment. In this perspective I would like also to encourage the initiatives promoted by the General Administration for Cooperation to Development of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which has involved universities on all the continents, most recently also those of the Middle East, represented here by several Rectors.

Dear young university students, the remembrance of the World Youth Day Cross has reverberated at this gathering. At the end of the celebration, the African University Delegation will hand over the Icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae to the Spanish University Delegation. So begins the Marian effigy's pilgrimage to all the universities in Spain, a sign that directs us towards the meeting next August in Madrid.

The presence of young university students trained and anxious to communicate to their peers the fruitfulness of the Christian faith, not only in Europe but throughout the world, is very important.

With Mary who goes before us on our journey of preparation I make an appointment with you in Madrid, and I am very confident of your generous and creative commitment.

I entrust the entire university community of Rome to her, Sedes Sapientiae. Let us prepare with her to encounter the Child in the Bethlehem Grotto: he is the Lord who comes for us! Amen.

Benedict XVI Homilies 21110