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Pope Benedict XVI

Messages

Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 Lenten Message

The Justice of God Has Been Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ

Ash WednesdayDear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year on the occasion of Lent the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel.  This year I would like to offer you some reflections on the great theme of justice beginning from the Pauline affirmation: "The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ" (cf. Rm 3, 21-22).

Justice: "dare cuique suum"

First of all I want to consider the meaning of the term "justice" which in common usage implies "to render to every man his due" according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century.  In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what "due" is to be rendered to each person.  What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law.  In order to live life to the fullest, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift:  We could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness.  Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned about healing the sick, feeding the crowds that followed Him, and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water, and medicine – yet "distributive" justice does not render to the human being the totality of his "due."  Just as man needs bread so does man have even more need of God.  Saint Augustine notes:  If "justice is that virtue which gives every one his due...where then is the justice of man when he deserts the true God?" (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).

What is the Cause of Injustice?

The evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus which were inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him….What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts" (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). 

Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause.  Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: Since injustice comes "from outside," in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved.  This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted.  Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil.  With bitterness the Psalmist recognizes this: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps 51,7).  Indeed man is weakened by an intense influence which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other.

By nature he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others.  This is egoism, the result of original sin.  Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty.  How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?

Justice and Sedaqah

At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who "lifts the needy from the ash heap" (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one’s neighbor.  The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well.  Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one’s neighbor (cf. Ex 20, 12-17), especially the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (cf. Dt 10, 18-19).  But the two meanings are linked because giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God who had pity on the misery of His people.  It was not by chance that the gift to Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai took place after the crossing of the Red Sea.  Listening to the Law presupposes faith in God who first "heard the cry" of His people and "came down to deliver them out of hand of the Egyptians" (cf. Ex 3,8). God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to.  He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18).  In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice.  In other words, what is needed is an even deeper "exodus" than that accomplished by God with Moses, a liberation of the heart which the Law on its own is powerless to realize.  Does man have any hope of justice then?

Christ, the Justice of God

The Christian Good News responds positively to man’s thirst for justice as Saint Paul affirms in the Letter to the Romans: "But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from law … the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood to be received by faith" (3, 21-25).

What then is the justice of Christ?  Above all it is the justice that comes from grace where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that "expiation" flows from the "blood" of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme even to the point of bearing in Himself the "curse" due to man so as to give in return the "blessing" due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14).  But this raises an immediate objection:  What kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one?  Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his "due"?  In reality here we discover divine justice which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart.  God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant.  Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel ,for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully.  Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: To exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship.  o we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good feeling, obvious fact: Humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from "what is mine," to give me gratuitously "what is His."  This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.  Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the "greatest" justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor because it has received more than could ever have been expected.

Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation.  May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ  who came to fulfill every justice.  With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Pope Benedict XVI's
2009 Easter Urbi et Orbi

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world:

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1).

With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: What is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word because life will be victorious at the end.

This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body.  Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in Him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message.

As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19).

Ever since the dawn of Easter, a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because His memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples but because He himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover,” his “passage,” that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20).  It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb.

In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable  and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. I

It is a fact that if Christ had not risen the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and His resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion.

Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10).

We answer, "yes": On Easter morning, everything was renewed. “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.”

This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.

Many times in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and was “conquered” by Him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

Let us look at this great evangelizer who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him because that sense of emptiness which tends to intoxicate humanity has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: “Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day” (Ps 139 [138]:12).

It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free  because the Word of life has even reached the “underworld”, carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many, signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: The weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

This is the message which during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen.

Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty, and disease. 

I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now.  Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering, and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope.

Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help Him to affirm his victory using His own weapons: The weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good even when it costs - especially when it costs.

Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made,” and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has “redeemed the world,” the Innocent one who has “reconciled us sinners with the Father.” To Him, our victorious King, to Him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!

 

Pope Benedict XVI's 2008 Christmas message:

"Dear brothers and sisters,

As we approach the great feast of Christmas, the liturgy encourages us to intensify our preparation placing at our disposal numerous biblical texts from the Old and the New Testaments which serve to motivate us to focus on the significance and value of this annual celebration.

On the one hand, Christmas is a commemoration of the incredible miracle of the birth of God's only son, born of the Virgin Mary, in a cave in Bethlehem.  On the other hand, Christmas exhorts us to keep watch and pray waiting for our Redeemer who will come 'to judge the living and the dead.'

Perhaps we today, even we believers, truly await the Judge. We all await justice. We see so much injustice in the world, in our small world, at home, in our neighborhoods, as well as in the large world of states, of societies. And we wait for justice to be done.

Justice is an abstract concept. We await the coming of the very one who can effect justice.  In this context we pray, 'Come, Lord, Jesus Christ, as judge, come as you must.' The Lord knows how to enter the world and bring justice.

We ask the Lord, the Judge, to respond, to truly effect justice in the world.  We await justice, but our demands with respect to others cannot be the only expression of this waiting. The Christian significance of waiting for justice implies that we begin to live under the eyes of the Judge according to the criteria of the Judge; that we begin to live in his presence rendering justice in our lives. By being just, putting ourselves in the presence of the Judge, we await justice.

This is the meaning of Advent, of vigilance. The vigilance of Advent means to live under the eyes of the Judge and to prepare ourselves and the world for justice.  By living under the eyes of the God-Judge, we can open the world to the arrival of His Son, preparing our heart to welcome 'the Lord who comes.'

The Child, adored 2,000 years ago by the shepherds in a cave in Bethlehem, never stops visiting us in our daily life, as we, like pilgrims, walk toward the Kingdom.  As He waits, the believer becomes the spokesperson for the hopes of all humankind.  Humanity longs for justice; and thus, though often unaware, waits for God, waits for the salvation that only God can give us.

For us Christians, the wait is marked by assiduous prayer as indicated by the particularly evocative series of invocations that are proposed to us in these days of the Christmas novena, in the Mass, in the Gospel, and in the celebration of vespers, before the canticle of the Magnificat. Each appeal that implores the coming of Wisdom, the Sun of Justice, and God-With-Us, contains a prayer directed to the Awaited one of the nations so that His arrival be hastened.

To invoke the gift of the birth of the promised Savior also means to commit myself to prepare the way, to prepare a worthy home not only in the environment around us, but above all in our souls. With the guidance of the Evangelist John, we try to turn our thoughts and hearts to the eternal Word, to the Logos, to the Word that has become flesh and has given us grace after grace (cf. 1:14,16).

This faith in the Creator Logos, in the Word that created the world, in the one who came like a Child, this faith and its great hope seem to be far from our daily public and private reality.  It seems this truth is too great.  We manage the best we can so it seems at least.  But the world is becoming more chaotic and violent.  We witness this every day.  And the light of God, the light of Truth, is put out.  Life becomes dark and without a compass.

It is therefore very important that we are true believers, and as believers, that we reaffirm forcefully, with our lives, the mystery of salvation that comes with the celebration of Christ's birth.  In Bethlehem, the Light which illumines our life was made manifest to the world.  The Way which leads to the fullness of our humanity was revealed to us. What sense does it make to celebrate Christmas if we don't acknowledge that God has become man?  The celebration becomes empty.

Before all else, we Christians have to reassert with deep and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's birth in order to bear witness before all, the awareness of an unparalleled gift that enriches not only us, but everyone.

The duty of evangelization is to convey this eu-angelion, the good news. This was recalled by the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith entitled Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization which I would like to offer for your reflection and personal as well as communal study.

Dear friends, in these days of preparation leading up to Christmas, the prayer of the Church intensifies so that the hopes for peace, salvation, justice, and all that the world urgently needs, be made a reality. We ask God that violence be defeated by the power of love, that opposition be replaced by reconciliation, that the desire to dominate be transformed into desires for forgiveness, justice, and peace.

May the wishes of kindness and love that we exchange in these days reach all sectors of our daily lives. May peace be in our hearts so that we can be open to the action of God's mercy. May peace live in all families, and may they spend Christmas united before the crib and the tree decorated with lights.  May the Christmas message of solidarity and welcome contribute to create a deeper sensibility toward old and new types of poverty and toward the common good that we are all called to share.

May all family members, especially the children and the elderly, the weakest ones, feel the warmth of this feast, and may that warmth spread out through every day of the year.  May Christmas be a celebration of peace and joy, joy for the birth of the Savior, the Prince of Peace. Like the shepherds, we hasten our steps toward Bethlehem.  In the heart of the Holy Night, we will be able to contemplate the 'infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger', together with Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:12,16).

We ask the Lord to open our soul so that we can enter the mystery of his birth.  May Mary, who gave her virginal womb to the Word of God, who contemplated the child between her arms, and who offers Him to everyone as the Redeemer of the world, help us make Christmas a moment of growth in the knowledge and love of Christ. This is the wish that I warmly extend to you all, to your families. and your dear ones.

Merry Christmas to you all!"

Pope Benedict XVI: A society which is ignorant of history is vulnerable

"A society which, heedless of its own past, and hence lacking criteria acquired through experience, is no longer capable of harmonious coexistence or joint commitment in realizing future aims.  Such a society is particularly vulnerable to ideological manipulation. This danger is becoming ever greater because of an excessive emphasis given to modern history especially when research in this field is conditioned by a methodology which draws inspiration from positivism and sociology," while overlooking "other important aspects of historical reality, even entire epochs."

Pope Benedict XVI's reflections on his pilgrimage to America delivered April 30, 2008, at his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square

Even if a few days have already passed since my return, I would like to dedicate the catechesis of today, as I normally do, to the apostolic trip that I made to the United Nations and the United States of America this past April 15 to 21.  Before all, I renew my most cordial appreciation to the U. S. episcopal conference, as well as President Bush, for having invited me and for the warm welcome they have given me.  And I would like to extend my thanks to all those in Washington and New York who came to greet me and manifest their love for the pope or who have accompanied and supported me with prayer and with the offering of their sacrifices.

As we know, the occasion of my trip was the bicentennial of the elevation of the country's first diocese, Baltimore, to a metropolitan see, and the foundation of the sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville.  On this characteristically ecclesial anniversary, I have had the joy of personally visiting, for the first time as the Successor of Peter, the dear people of the United States of America to confirm the Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to everyone the message of "Christ Our Hope," as the theme of the trip said.

In the meeting with the president in his residence I was able to pay homage to this great country which from the beginning has been constructed based on a pleasant joining together of religious, ethical, and political principles and continues to be a valid example of healthy secularism where the religious dimension in the diversity of its expressions is not only tolerated but valued as the soul of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of the rights and duties of the human being.

In this context, the Church can carry out its mission of evangelization and human promotion with freedom and commitment; and, at the same time can be a stimulus for a country such as the United States to which everyone looks as one of the principal agents on the international scene, so that it is oriented toward global solidarity, ever more necessary and urgent, and toward the patient exercise of dialogue in international relations.

Naturally the mission and the role of the ecclesial community were at the center of the meeting with the bishops that took place in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. I n the liturgical context of Vespers, we praised the Lord for the path traveled by the people of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and for the fervor and the generosity of its faithful  which is manifested with a high esteem and openness to the faith and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and outside it.

At the same time, I was able to support my brothers in the episcopate in their difficult task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by many contradictions which threaten the coherence of the faithful and of the clergy themselves.  I encouraged them to raise their voices on current moral and social questions and to form the lay faithful so that they be good leaven in the civil community starting from the fundamental cell that is the family.  In this sense, I exhorted them to repropose the sacrament of matrimony as a gift and indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman the natural environment for the welcoming and education of children.  The Church and the family, together with schools, especially those of Christian inspiration, should cooperate to offer youth a solid moral education, but in this task the agents of communication and entertainment also have a great responsibility.

Thinking of the sorrowful situation of the sexual abuse of minors committed by ordained ministers, I wanted to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the commitment to heal the wounds and to reinforce their relationships with their priests.  Responding to some questions asked by the bishops, I highlighted a few important aspects: The intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and natural law; the healthy concept of freedom which is understood and fulfilled in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the demand to announce in new ways, especially to youth, salvation as the plenitude of life and to educate them in prayer from which sprouts the generous response to the call of the Lord.

In the great and festive Eucharistic celebration in Nationals Park stadium in Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the United States of America so that firmly rooted in the faith transmitted by its fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it will face present and future challenges with courage and hope -- that hope that "does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).

One of these challenges is certainly that of education, and for this reason, in the Catholic University of America, I met with rectors of universities and Catholic educational centers, with the diocesan leaders responsible for teaching, and with representatives of professors and students. The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the U. S. Church community has always been very committed in this field offering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire country.  It is important that this can continue. And it is in the same way important to take care of the quality of the Catholic centers of education so that in them is true formation according to "the extent of the full stature" of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:13), joining together faith and reason, truth and liberty.  With joy, therefore, I have confirmed the formators in their precious commitment to intellectual charity.

In a country like the United States of America, with a multicultural vocation, the meetings with representatives of other religions have taken on special importance:  In Washington, in the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York, the visit to the synagogue.  Moments, especially this latter one, which were very cordial have confirmed the common commitment to dialogue and the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values. In that which considers itself the homeland of religious liberty, I wanted to recall that this should always be defended with a joint effort so as to avoid any kind of discrimination or prejudice.  And I stressed the great responsibility of the religious representatives both in teaching respect and nonviolence, and in nourishing the deepest questions of human consciousness.  The ecumenical celebration in the parish church of Saint Joseph was also characterized by great cordiality.  Together we asked the Lord that He increase in Christians the capacity of giving reasons, also with an ever greater unity, for their unique hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) based in a common faith in Jesus Christ.

The other principal objective of my trip was the visit to the central offices of the United Nations Organization, the fourth visit of a pope after that of Paul VI in 1965 and the two visits of John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995.  In the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence permitted me to confirm, in the most great and authoritative supranational assembly, the value of this Declaration recalling its universal basis; that is, the dignity of the human person created by God in his image and likeness to cooperate in the world with his great design of life and peace.

Respect for human rights is rooted, as well as in peace, in justice; that is, in an ethical order valid in all times and for all peoples which can be summarized in the famous maxim: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you," or, expressed positively in the words of Jesus, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12).  Upon this base, which constitutes the characteristic contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations Organization, I renewed and I renew again today, the commitment of the Catholic Church in contributing to strengthen international relations characterized by the principles of responsibility and solidarity.

Other moments of my stay in New York have remained firmly etched in my spirit.  In Saint Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan, truly a house of prayer for all peoples, I celebrated Holy Mass for the priests and consecrated persons who had come from all parts of the country.  I will never forget the warmth with which they congratulated me for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter.  It was a moving moment in which I experienced in a tangible way all of the support of the Church for my ministry.  I could say the same about my meeting with youth and seminarians, which was held precisely in the diocesan seminary preceded by a very significant meeting with handicapped boys and girls and their families.

I proposed to youth -- who by their nature are thirsting for truth and love -- some figures of men and women who have given an exemplary testimony of the Gospel in the lands of the United States, the Gospel of the Truth that frees in love, in service, in life given for others.  In seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives, youth can find in the saints the light that dissipates it: The light of Christ, hope for all men.

This hope, stronger than sin and death, motivated the emotion-swelled moment that I spent in silence at the crater of Ground Zero where I lit a candle praying for all the victims of that terrible tragedy.  Finally, my visit culminated with the celebration of the Eucharist in Yankee Stadium in New York.  I still carry in my heart that festival of faith and brotherhood with which we celebrated the 200 years of the oldest dioceses of North America.  The original little flock has progressed enormously enriching itself with the faith and the traditions of successive waves of immigration. To this Church, which now faces the challenges of the present, I have had the joy of announcing anew "Christ Our Hope" of yesterday, today and forever.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to unite yourselves with me in thanksgiving for the encouraging results of this apostolic trip and in the supplication to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it produces abundant fruits for the Church in the United States and in all parts of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer at Ground Zero in New York City on April 20, 2008, at 9:30 A. M.

O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you, in your compassion to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness.

Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope. We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering. God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth.

Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.

Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.

Pope Benedict XVI's 2008 Urbi et Orbi Message

(To Rome and to the World Message)

Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum. Alleluia! - I have risen, I am still with you. Alleluia!

Dear brothers and sisters,

Jesus, crucified and risen, repeats this joyful proclamation to us today: The Easter proclamation.  Let us welcome it with deep wonder and gratitude!  

Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum – I have risen, I am still with you forever.

These words, taken from an ancient version of Psalm 138 (v. 18b), were sung at the beginning of today’s Mass.  In them, at the rising of the Easter sun, the Church recognizes the voice of Jesus himself who, on rising from death, turns to the Father, filled with gladness and love, and exclaims:  "My Father, here I am!  I have risen.  I am still with you, and so I shall be forever. Your Spirit never abandoned me."  In this way we can also come to a new understanding of other passages from the psalm: "If I climb the heavens, you are there; if I descend into the underworld, you are there … Even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as clear as day; for you, darkness is like light" (Ps 138:8,12).

It is true.  In the solemn Easter vigil, darkness becomes light, night gives way to the day that knows no sunset.  The death and Resurrection of the Word of God incarnate is an event of invincible love.  It is the victory of that Love which has delivered us from the slavery of sin and death.  It has changed the course of history giving to human life an indestructible and renewed meaning and value.  

"I have risen and I am still with you, forever."

These words invite us to contemplate the risen Christ, letting his voice resound in our heart. With his redeeming sacrifice, Jesus of Nazareth has made us adopted children of God so that we too can now take our place in the mysterious dialogue between Him and the Father.  We are reminded of what He once said to those who were listening: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him" (Mt 11:27).

In this perspective, we note that the words addressed by the risen Jesus to the Father on this day – "I am still with you, forever" – apply indirectly to us as well, "children of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (cf. Rom 8:17). Through the death and Resurrection of Christ, we too rise to new life today, and uniting our voice with his, we proclaim that we wish to remain forever with God, our infinitely good and merciful Father.   In this way we enter the depths of the Paschal mystery. 

The astonishing event of the Resurrection of Jesus is essentially an event of love: The Father’s love in handing over his Son for the salvation of the world; the Son’s love in abandoning himself to the Father’s will for us all; the Spirit’s love in raising Jesus from the dead in his transfigured body.  And there is more; the Father’s love which "newly embraces" the Son, enfolding him in glory; the Son’s love returning to the Father in the power of the Spirit, robed in our transfigured humanity.  From today’s solemnity in which we relive the absolute, once-and-for-all experience of Jesus’ Resurrection, we receive an appeal to be converted to Love; we receive an invitation to live by; rejecting hatred and selfishness, and to follow with docility in the footsteps of the Lamb that was slain for our salvation, to imitate the Redeemer who is "gentle and lowly in heart", who is "rest for our souls" (cf. Mt 11:29).

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, in every part of the world, dear men and women whose spirit is sincerely open to the truth, let no heart be closed to the omnipotence of this redeeming love!  Jesus Christ died and rose for all; He is our hope – true hope for every human being. Today, just as he did with his disciples in Galilee before returning to the Father, the risen Jesus now sends us everywhere as witnesses of his hope, and He reassures us:  I am with you always, all days, until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20).  Fixing the gaze of our spirit on the glorious wounds of His transfigured body, we can understand the meaning and value of suffering, we can tend the many wounds that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day. In His glorious wounds, we recognize the indestructible signs of the infinite mercy of the God of whom the prophet says, "It is He who heals the wounds of broken hearts, who defends the weak and proclaims the freedom of slaves, who consoles all the afflicted and bestows upon them the oil of gladness instead of a mourning robe, a song of praise instead of a sorrowful heart (cf. Is 61:1,2,3).  If with humble trust we draw near to Him, we encounter in His gaze the response to the deepest longings of our heart, to know God and to establish with Him a living relationship in an authentic communion of love which can fill our lives, our interpersonal and social relations with that same love.  For this reason, humanity needs Christ.  In Him, our hope, "we have been saved" (cf. Rom 8:24).  

How often relations between individuals, between groups and between peoples, are marked not by love but by selfishness, injustice, hatred and violence!  These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters. They are waiting to be tended and healed by the glorious wounds of our Risen Lord (cf. 1 Pet 2:24-25) and by the solidarity of people who, following in his footsteps, perform deeds of charity in His name, make an active commitment to justice, and spread luminous signs of hope in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person continues to be scorned and trampled.  It is hoped that these are precisely the places where gestures of moderation and forgiveness will increase!  

Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow the light that streams forth from this solemn day to enlighten us; let us open ourselves in sincere trust to the risen Christ so that His victory over evil and death may also triumph in each one of us, in our families, in our cities and in our nations.  Let it shine forth in every part of the world.  In particular, how can we fail to remember certain African regions, such as Dafur and Somalia, the tormented Middle East, especially the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon, and finally Tibet, all of whom I encourage to seek solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good!  Let us invoke the fullness of his Paschal gifts, through the intercession of Mary who, after sharing the sufferings of the Passion and Crucifixion of her innocent Son, also experienced the inexpressible joy of His Resurrection.  Sharing in the glory of Christ, may she be the one to protect us and guide us along the path of fraternal solidarity and peace.

These are my Easter greetings which I address to all who are present here, and to men and women of every nation and continent united with us through radio and television.

Happy Easter!

Pope Benedict XVI's 2008 Lenten Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters.

In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal.  These are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  For this year's Lenten Message, I wish to spend some time reflecting on the practice of almsgiving which represents a specific way to assist those in need; and, at the same time, an exercise in self denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods.

The force of attraction to material riches and just how categorical our decision must be not to make of them an idol, Jesus confirms in a resolute way: "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Lk 16,13). Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor's needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. This is the aim of the special collections in favor of the poor which are promoted during Lent in many parts of the world.  In this way, inward cleansing is accompanied by a gesture of ecclesial communion mirroring what already took place in the early Church.  In his Letters, Saint Paul speaks of this in regard to the collection for the Jerusalem community (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27).

According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators, of the goods we possess.  These, then are not to be considered as our exclusive possession but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, material goods bear a social value according to the principle of their universal destination (cf. n. 2404)

In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?" (1 Jn 3,17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.

The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: It must be hidden. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," Jesus asserts, "so that your alms may be done in secret" (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before He said not to boast of one's own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God's greater glory. Jesus warns, "In this way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Mt 5,16). Everything, then, must be done for God's glory and not our own. This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God's glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel's vision. In today's world of images, attentive vigilance is required since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy, rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one's neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one's personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vain glory.  For this reason the one who knows that God "sees in secret" and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

In inviting us to consider almsgiving with a more profound gaze that transcends the purely material dimension, Scripture teaches us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20,35).  When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15).  Every time when, for love of God, we share our goods with our neighbor in need, we discover that the fullness of life comes from love and all is returned to us as a blessing in the form of peace, inner satisfaction, and joy.  Our Father in heaven rewards our almsgiving with His joy. What is more, Saint Peter includes among the spiritual fruits of almsgiving the forgiveness of sins.  "Charity," he writes, "covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pt 4,8). As the Lenten liturgy frequently repeats, God offers to us sinners the possibility of being forgiven. The fact of sharing with the poor what we possess disposes us to receive such a gift. In this moment, my thought turns to those who realize the weight of the evil they have committed and, precisely for this reason, feel far from God, fearful and almost incapable of turning to Him. By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God.  It can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation with Him and our brothers.

Almsgiving teaches us the generosity of love.  Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo forthrightly recommends, "Never keep an account of the coins you give since this is what I always say.  If  in giving alms the left hand is not to know what the right hand is doing, then the right hand, too, should not know what it does itself" (Detti e pensieri, Edilibri, n. 201). In this regard, all the more significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury "all she had to live on" (Mk 12,44). Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol.  This widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus' passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8,9).  He gave His entire self for us. Lent, also through the practice of almsgiving, inspires us to follow His example.  In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift.  Imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love?  The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation.  In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence.  Love then gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent invites us to "train ourselves" spiritually also through the practice of almsgiving in order to grow in charity and recognize in the poor Christ Himself.  In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Apostle Peter said to the cripple who was begging alms at the Temple gate: "I have no silver or gold but what I have I give you in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk" (Acts 3,6). In giving alms, we offer something material, a sign of the greater gift that we can impart to others through the announcement and witness of Christ in whose name is found true life.  Let this time, then, be marked by a personal and community effort of attachment to Christ in order that we may be witnesses of His love.  May Mary, Mother and faithful Servant of the Lord, help believers to enter the "spiritual battle" of Lent, armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts renewed in spirit. With these wishes, I willingly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Pope Benedict XVI 2008 Christmas Message

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we approach the great feast of Christmas, the liturgy encourages us to intensify our preparation placing at our disposal numerous biblical texts from the Old and the New Testaments which serve to motivate us to focus on the significance and value of this annual celebration.

On the one hand, Christmas is a commemoration of the incredible miracle of the birth of God's only son, born of the Virgin Mary, in a cave in Bethlehem.  On the other hand, Christmas exhorts us to keep watch and pray waiting for our Redeemer who will come 'to judge the living and the dead.'

Perhaps we today, even we believers, truly await the Judge. We all await justice. We see so much injustice in the world, in our small world, at home, in our neighborhoods, as well as in the large world of states, of societies. And we wait for justice to be done.

Justice is an abstract concept. We await the coming of the very one who can effect justice.  In this context we pray, 'Come, Lord, Jesus Christ, as judge, come as you must.' The Lord knows how to enter the world and bring justice.

We ask the Lord, the Judge, to respond, to truly effect justice in the world.  We await justice, but our demands with respect to others cannot be the only expression of this waiting. The Christian significance of waiting for justice implies that we begin to live under the eyes of the Judge according to the criteria of the Judge; that we begin to live in his presence rendering justice in our lives. By being just, putting ourselves in the presence of the Judge, we await justice.

This is the meaning of Advent, of vigilance. The vigilance of Advent means to live under the eyes of the Judge and to prepare ourselves and the world for justice.  By living under the eyes of the God-Judge, we can open the world to the arrival of His Son, preparing our heart to welcome 'the Lord who comes.'

The Child, adored 2,000 years ago by the shepherds in a cave in Bethlehem, never stops visiting us in our daily life, as we, like pilgrims, walk toward the Kingdom.  As He waits, the believer becomes the spokesperson for the hopes of all humankind.  Humanity longs for justice; and thus, though often unaware, waits for God, waits for the salvation that only God can give us.

For us Christians, the wait is marked by assiduous prayer as indicated by the particularly evocative series of invocations that are proposed to us in these days of the Christmas novena, in the Mass, in the Gospel, and in the celebration of vespers, before the canticle of the Magnificat. Each appeal that implores the coming of Wisdom, the Sun of Justice, and God-With-Us, contains a prayer directed to the Awaited one of the nations so that His arrival be hastened.

To invoke the gift of the birth of the promised Savior also means to commit myself to prepare the way, to prepare a worthy home not only in the environment around us, but above all in our souls. With the guidance of the Evangelist John, we try to turn our thoughts and hearts to the eternal Word, to the Logos, to the Word that has become flesh and has given us grace after grace (cf. 1:14,16).

This faith in the Creator Logos, in the Word that created the world, in the one who came like a Child, this faith and its great hope seem to be far from our daily public and private reality.  It seems this truth is too great.  We manage the best we can so it seems at least.  But the world is becoming more chaotic and violent.  We witness this every day.  And the light of God, the light of Truth, is put out.  Life becomes dark and without a compass.

It is therefore very important that we are true believers, and as believers, that we reaffirm forcefully, with our lives, the mystery of salvation that comes with the celebration of Christ's birth.  In Bethlehem, the Light which illumines our life was made manifest to the world.  The Way which leads to the fullness of our humanity was revealed to us. What sense does it make to celebrate Christmas if we don't acknowledge that God has become man?  The celebration becomes empty.

Before all else, we Christians have to reassert with deep and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's birth in order to bear witness before all, the awareness of an unparalleled gift that enriches not only us, but everyone.

The duty of evangelization is to convey this eu-angelion, the good news. This was recalled by the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith entitled Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization which I would like to offer for your reflection and personal as well as communal study.

Dear friends, in these days of preparation leading up to Christmas, the prayer of the Church intensifies so that the hopes for peace, salvation, justice, and all that the world urgently needs, be made a reality. We ask God that violence be defeated by the power of love, that opposition be replaced by reconciliation, that the desire to dominate be transformed into desires for forgiveness, justice, and peace.

May the wishes of kindness and love that we exchange in these days reach all sectors of our daily lives. May peace be in our hearts so that we can be open to the action of God's mercy. May peace live in all families, and may they spend Christmas united before the crib and the tree decorated with lights.  May the Christmas message of solidarity and welcome contribute to create a deeper sensibility toward old and new types of poverty and toward the common good that we are all called to share.

May all family members, especially the children and the elderly, the weakest ones, feel the warmth of this feast, and may that warmth spread out through every day of the year.  May Christmas be a celebration of peace and joy, joy for the birth of the Savior, the Prince of Peace. Like the shepherds, we hasten our steps toward Bethlehem.  In the heart of the Holy Night, we will be able to contemplate the 'infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger', together with Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:12,16).

We ask the Lord to open our soul so that we can enter the mystery of his birth.  May Mary, who gave her virginal womb to the Word of God, who contemplated the child between her arms, and who offers Him to everyone as the Redeemer of the world, help us make Christmas a moment of growth in the knowledge and love of Christ. This is the wish that I warmly extend to you all, to your families. and your dear ones.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Pope Benedict XVI General Audience

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip to Brazil

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In this general audience I would like to reflect on my recent apostolic journey to Brazil from May 9-14. After the first two years of my pontificate, I finally had the joy of going to Latin America, a place I love dearly and where a great number of the world's Catholics live.

The central destination of my journey was Brazil, but I also extended my embrace to the entire Latin American continent because the ecclesial event that called me there was the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I wish to reiterate my profound gratitude for the welcome I received from my dear brother bishops, in particular those of São Paulo and Aparecida.  I thank the president of Brazil and the other civil authorities for their cordial and generous cooperation; and with great affection I thank the Brazilian people for the warmth with which they welcomed me - it was great and moving - and for the attention they paid to my words.

My journey was an act of praise to God for the wonders he has done in the midst of the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and their culture for more than 500 years. It was also a pilgrimage culminating at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil.

The theme of the relationship between faith and culture was always in the hearts of my venerated predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. I also wished to take up this theme to confirm the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean in their walk of faith that has been and still is a living history as we see in popular piety, art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions, as well as numerous European influences, and influences from other continents.

A look back at a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization of the Latin American continent. It is impossible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous peoples who often had their basic human rights trampled on.  But the very mention of these unjustifiable crimes, crimes that were condemned at the time by missionaries such as Bartolomé de Las Casas, and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca, must not stop us from expressing gratitude for the wonderful work carried out by divine grace among those populations in these past five centuries.

Brazil is a great country which has deeply rooted Christian values but is experiencing enormous social and economic problems. To help resolve these problems, the Church must mobilize all of the moral and spiritual energies of its communities to find points of convergence with the healthy energies of the country.

Among the positive elements to point out are the creativity and the fecundity of the Church there from which many new movements and institutes of consecrated life are born.  No less worthy of praise is the generous dedication of the many lay faithful who show themselves to be very active in the various initiatives promoted by the Church.

Brazil is also a country that can offer the world a new model of development: The Christian culture can facilitate a reconciliation between men and creation beginning with the recovery of personal dignity in the relationship to God the Father.

An eloquent example of this is the Fazenda da Esperança, a network of rehabilitation centers for young people who wish to come out of the dark tunnel of drug abuse. At the one I visited, taking away a profound impression that I will keep alive in my heart, I noticed the importance of the presence of the Poor Clares.

This appeared symbolic for the world of today which is in need of a psychological and social rehabilitation and an even deeper spiritual rehabilitation.

Also symbolic was the canonization, celebrated in joy, of the first native Brazilian saint, Father Antonio de Sant'Ana Galvão. This Franciscan priest of the 18th century, devoted to the Blessed Virgin, an apostle of the Eucharist, and of confession, was called while living as a man of peace and charity. His witness is yet another confirmation that holiness is the true revolution which can promote the authentic reform of the Church and society.

In the Cathedral of São Paulo, I met with the Brazilian bishops which is  the largest bishops' conference in the world. Conveying to them the support of the Successor of Peter was one of the major goals of my mission because I know the great challenges that the proclamation of the Gospel faces in that country.

I encouraged my brother bishops to promote and strengthen the task of the new evangelization exhorting them to develop in a methodical way the spreading of God's word so that the innate and widespread religiosity of populations can deepen and become a mature faith adhering personally and communally to the God of Jesus Christ.

I encouraged them to recover the style of life of the first Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles dedicated to catechesis, the sacramental life, and works of charity.

I know the dedication of these faithful servants of the Gospel, the Gospel they wish to present without reductions or confusion, keeping watch over the deposit of faith with discernment, and their constant goal of promoting social development mainly through the formation of the laity who are called to assume responsibility in political and economic fields. I thank God for allowing me to deepen my communion with the Brazilian bishops, and I continue to remember them in my prayers.

Another important moment of the journey was without a doubt the meeting with young people; hope not only for the future, but a vital force also for the present for the Church and for society. This vigil, animated by them in São Paulo, was a festival of hope, illuminated by Christ's words to the rich young man who asked Him: "Master, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus points out above all the commandments as the way of life, and then invites him to leave everything to follow Him. The Church does the same thing today: First of all, it proposes the commandments, the true education of freedom for personal and social good, and above all, it proposes the first commandment, that of love, because without love even the commandments cannot give full meaning to life and procure true happiness.

Only the person who experiences the love of God in Christ and places himself on this path to live it among humanity becomes his disciple and missionary.  I invited the young people to be apostles of their peers and to therefore take great care of their own human and spiritual formation, to have great esteem for marriage and the way that leads to marriage in chastity and responsibility, and to be open to the call to consecrated life for God's kingdom. To summarize, I encouraged them to take advantage of the great riches of their youth and to be the young face of the Church.

The high point of the journey was the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida. The theme for this important meeting, which will continue until the end of the month, is Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ So That Our People Might Have Life in Him -- I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

"Disciples and missionaries" corresponds to what the Gospel of Mark says concerning the call of the Apostles, "(Jesus) called the twelve that were with Him and sent them out to preach" (Mark 3:14-15).

The word "disciple" recalls the aspects of formation and following in communion and friendship with Jesus.  The term "missionary" expresses the fruit of discipleship, that is, the witness and communication of the lived experience of the truth and love that is known and assimilated.

To be disciples and missionaries implies a close link with the Word of God, with the Eucharist, and the other sacraments, living in the Church, and listening obediently to His teachings.  Joyously renewing the desire to be Jesus' disciples, to stay with him, is the primary condition for being his missionaries "beginning again with Christ," according to Pope John Paul II's mandate to the Church after the Jubilee of the Year 2000.

My venerated predecessor always insisted on an evangelization that was "new in its ardor, its methods and its expression," as he said when speaking to CELAM [Latin American Bishops' Council] on March 9, 1983, in Haiti (Insegnamenti VI/1 [1983], 698).

With my apostolic journey, I wished to exhort them to continue along this path holding up the encyclical Deus Caritas Est as a unified perspective, an inseparable social and theological perspective, summarized in this expression: "It is love that gives life."

"God's presence, friendship with the Son of God incarnate, the light of His Word, are always fundamental conditions for the presence and efficacy of justice and love in our societies" (Inaugural speech of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, 4: L'Osservatore Romano, May 14-15, 2007, p. 14).

I entrust the fruits of this unforgettable apostolic journey to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary who is venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe and patroness of all Latin America, and to the new Brazilian saint, Father Antonio of Sant'Ana Galvão.

Pope Benedict XVI

Trip to Bavaria

September, 2006

"I am an old man.  I don't know how much time the Lord will grant me.  At least one more time I am getting to see my homeland."

My wish is that all my countrymen in Bavaria and Germany together actively participate in the handing down of the foundational values of the Christian faith to the citizens of tomorrow."

Pope Benedict XVI General Audience

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Trip to Bavaria

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I wish to recall again different moments of the pastoral trip that the Lord allowed me to undertake last week to Bavaria. On sharing with you the emotions and sentiments felt when returning to those dearly beloved places, I feel the need first of all to thank God for having made possible this second visit to Germany and for the first time to Bavaria my native land.

I also sincerely thank all those who worked with dedication and patience - pastors, priests, pastoral agents, public authorities, organizers, security forces and volunteers - so that each one of the events would unfold in the best possible way.  As I said on my arrival at Munich Airport on Saturday, September 9, the purpose of the trip remembering all those who contributed to form my personality was to reaffirm and confirm as Successor of the Apostle Peter the close bonds that unite the See of Rome with the Church in Germany.

Therefore the trip was not simply a return to the past but also a providential opportunity to look to the future with hope. Those who believe are never alone. The motto of the visit was meant to be an invitation to reflect on every baptized person's membership in the one Church of Christ within which one is never alone but in constant communion with God and all brothers.

The first stage was the City of Munich known as "the metropolis with a heart" ("Weltstadt mit Herz"). In its historical center is the "Marienplatz," Mary's Square, in which arises the "Mariensaeule," the Virgin's Column, at the summit of which is the golden bronze statue of Mary.

I wished to begin my stay with homage to the Patroness of Bavaria because for me it has a highly significant value.  In that Square and before that Marian image I was welcomed as archbishop some 30 years ago, and I began my episcopal mission with a prayer to Mary. I returned there at the end of my mandate before leaving for Rome. This time I wished to place myself once again at the foot of the "Mariensaeule" to implore the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God not only for the City of Munich and for Bavaria but for the whole Church and the entire world.

The following day, Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist in the esplanade of the "Neue Messe" (New Fair) of Munich among the faithful gathered in great numbers from different parts. Allowing myself to be guided by the Gospel passage of the day, I reminded everyone that especially today there is suffering from a certain "deafness" to God. We Christians have the task of proclaiming and witnessing to all in a secularized world the message of hope that faith offers us.  In Jesus crucified, God, merciful Father, calls us to be his children and to overcome every form of hatred and violence in order to contribute to the definitive triumph of love.

"Make Us Strong in the Faith" was the motto of the meeting on Sunday afternoon with the First Communion children and their young families with the catechists and the other pastoral agents and persons who collaborate in the evangelization of the Diocese of Munich. Together we celebrated Vespers in the historic cathedral, known as "Our Lady's Cathedral," where the relics of Saint Benno are kept, patron of the city in which I was ordained bishop in 1977.

I reminded the little ones and adults that God is not far from us in some unreachable place of the universe; on the contrary, in Jesus, He came to establish a relationship of friendship with each one of us. Thanks to the constant commitment of its members, every Christian community, and, in particular, the parish, is called to become a great family able to advance united on the path of true life.

The day of Monday, September 11, was dedicated in large part to the visit to Altoetting, in the Diocese of Passau. This small city is known as the "Heart of Bavaria" ("Herz Bayerns"), and there is kept the "Black Virgin," venerated in the "Gnadenkapelle" (Chapel of Graces), the object of numerous pilgrimages from Germany and nations of Central Europe.

In the vicinity is the Capuchin monastery of Saint Anne where Saint Konrad Birndorfer lived and was canonized by my venerated predecessor Pope Pius XI in the year 1934. With numerous faithful present at the Holy Mass celebrated in the square next to the shrine, we reflected together on Mary's role in the work of salvation to learn from her helpful kindness, humility, and the generous acceptance of the divine will.

Mary leads us to Jesus. This truth was even more visible at the end of the divine sacrifice with the procession. With the statue of the Virgin, we went to the chapel of Eucharistic adoration ("Anbetungskapelle") inaugurated on this occasion. The day closed with solemn Marian Vespers in the Basilica of Saint Anne of Altoetting with the presence of religious of Bavaria together with members of the Work for Vocations.

The following day, Tuesday, in Regensburg, a diocese established by Saint Boniface in 739 and which has Saint Wolfgang as its patron, three important meetings took place. In the morning, Holy Mass at Islinger Feld in which taking up again the theme of the pastoral visit, "Those who believe are never alone," we reflected on the content of the symbol of faith.  God, who is Father, wills to gather through Christ the whole of humanity in one single family, the Church.  For this reason, those who believe are never alone. Those who believe need not be afraid of coming to a dead end.

Then, in the afternoon, I was in the Cathedral of Regensburg, known also for its choir of white voices, the Domspatzen (sparrows of the cathedral), who take pride in their 1,000 years of activity and which for 30 years was directed by my brother, Georg. The ecumenical celebration of Vespers took place there in which numerous representatives of different churches and ecclesial communities in Bavaria and members of the Ecumenical Commission of the German episcopal conference participated. It was a providential occasion to pray together to accelerate full unity among all Christ's disciples and to confirm the duty to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ without attenuation but in a total and clear manner above all in our behavior of sincere love.

It was an especially beautiful experience for me that day to deliver a conference before a large auditorium of professors and students at the University of Regensburg at which I was professor for many years.  With joy I was able to once again meet with the university world which was my spiritual homeland during a long period of my life.

I had chosen as a topic the question of the relationship between faith and reason. To introduce the auditorium to the dramatic and timely character of the argument, I quoted some of the words of a Christian-Islamic dialogue of the 14th century in which the Christian interlocutor, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, in an incomprehensibly brusque way for us, presented to the Islamic interlocutor the problem of the relationship between religion and violence.

Unfortunately this quotation has given room to a misunderstanding. For the careful reader of my text, it is clear that I did not wish at any time to make my own the negative words uttered by the medieval emperor in this dialogue, and that its controversial content does not express my personal conviction.  My intention was very different, and was based on what Manuel II affirms afterward in a very positive way, with very beautiful words, about rationality in the transmission of the faith. I wished to explain that religion is not united to violence but to reason.

The topic of my conference - responding to the mission of the university - was therefore the relationship between faith and reason. I wished to invite the Christian faith to dialogue with the modern world and to dialogue with all cultures and religions. I hope that on different occasions of my visit, as for example in Munich where I underlined the importance of respecting what others consider sacred, my deep respect for the great religions, in particular for Muslims who adore the one God and with whom we are engaged in "preserving and promoting together for all mankind social justice, moral values, peace and freedom" ("Nostra Aetate," No. 3) -- emerged clearly.

Therefore, I trust that, after the reactions of the first moment, my words at the University of Regensburg will represent an impulse and encouragement to a positive dialogue including self-critical both among religions as well as between modern reason and Christians' faith.

In the morning of the following day, September 13, in the "Alte Kapelle" ("Old Chapel") of Regensburg, in which the miraculous image of Mary is kept painted according to local tradition by the Evangelist Luke, I presided over a brief liturgy on the occasion of the blessing of the new organ.

Making use of the structure of this musical instrument made up of many pipes of different dimension but all well harmonized among themselves, I reminded those present of the need for all the various ministries, gifts, and charisms in the ecclesial community to contribute, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the formation of a unique harmony in praise of the Lord and in love for brothers.

The last stage, Thursday, September 14, was the City of Freising. I feel particularly linked to it as I was ordained priest there precisely in its cathedral dedicated to Mary Most Holy and Saint Corbinian, the Evangelizer of Bavaria. And precisely in the cathedral, the last programmed ceremony was held - the meeting with priests and permanent deacons.

Reliving the emotions of my priestly ordination, I reminded those present of the duty to collaborate with the Lord to awaken new vocations that place themselves as the service of the "harvest," which also today is "plentiful," and I exhorted them to cultivate the interior life as pastoral priority so as not to lose contact with Christ source of joy in the daily exertion of the ministry.

In the farewell ceremony, while once again thanking all those who had cooperated in the realization of the visit, I again confirmed its main purpose to propose again to my fellow countrymen the eternal truths of the Gospel and to confirm believers in adherence to Christ, Son of God incarnated, dead and risen for us.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to open our hearts and minds to the One who is "The Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:16). I have prayed for this, and that is why I invite you all, dear brothers and sisters, to continue praying, and I thank you for the affection with which you support me in my daily pastoral ministry. Thank you all.

Pope Benedict XVI

 University of Regensburg

September 12, 2006

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959 in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists; and, naturally, between the two theological faculties.

Once a semester there was a dies academicus when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university making possible a genuine experience of universitas - the reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other - we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason. This reality became a lived experience.

The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too, carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university; namely, it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist- God.  That even in the face of such radical skepticism, it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith. This, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by professor Theodore Khoury of part of the dialogue carried on, perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara, by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam and the truth of both.

It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402, and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran and deals especially with the image of God and of man while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the "three Laws:" The Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran.

In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point, itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason," I found interesting, and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (Diálesis/Controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad. The emperor must have known that Sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the Suras of the early period when Mohammed was still powerless, but naturally the emperor also knew the instructions developed later and recorded in the Koran concerning Holy War.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns somewhat brusquely to his interlocutor with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general in these words, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.  Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood and by not acting reasonably.  Syn logo is contrary to God's nature.  Faith is born of the soul not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes for the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by His own word and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

As far as understanding of God, and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the logos."

This is the very word used by the emperor, God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word, a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication precisely as reason.  John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.

The vision of Saint Paul who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) This vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the Burning Bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that He is, already presents a challenge to the notion of myth to which Socrates' attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the Burning Bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the Burning Bush, "I am."

This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Psalm 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria, the Septuagint, is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text.  It is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of Revelation\ one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here - an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion.  From the very heart of Christian faith and at the same time the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus, a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's "voluntas ordinata."  Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom in virtue of which He could have done the opposite of everything He has actually done.

This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between His eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason, there exists a real analogy in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV).

God does not become more divine when we push Him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism.  Rather the truly divine God is the God who has revealed Himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Ephesians 3:19), nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos.  Consequently Christian worship is logic latreía worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Romans 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions but also from that of world history. It is an event which concerns us even today.  Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around.  This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity.  A call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of dehellenization.  Although interconnected they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system.

The principle of sola scriptura on the other hand sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this program forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason denying it access to reality as a whole.

The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this program was highly influential in Catholic theology, too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959 I tried to address the issue. I will not repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack's central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of Hellenization.  This simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favor of morality. In the end He was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message.

The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it from seemingly philosophical and theological elements such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God.  In this sense, historical, critical exegesis of the New Testament restored to theology its place within the university. Theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical, and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason; and consequently, it can take its rightful place within the university.

Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's Critiques, but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology.

On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently. This basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other.  A strongly positivistic thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.

This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity.

A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or prescience question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self.  But we must say more.  It is man himself who ends up being reduced for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective.

The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it.  Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology end up being simply inadequate.

Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures.

The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false, it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed.

True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures.  Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself.  They are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

And so I come to my conclusion: This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within, has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly.  We are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth; and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity.

The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities, and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them.

We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way. If we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid.  Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.

A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason, with its intrinsically Platonic element, bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given on which its methodology has to be based.

Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought -- to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding.

Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says, "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being, but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss."

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the program with which a theology grounded in biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.

"Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God," said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

Vatican Statement

 Saturday, September 16, 2006

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone: Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg, and the clarifications and explanations already presented through the director of the Holy See press office, I would like to add the following:

The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men  They take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees just as Abraham with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself submitted to God.

Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his Virgin Mother.  At times they even call on her with devotion.  In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead.  Finally, they value the moral life, and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting" (No. 3).

The Pope's option in favor of interreligious and intercultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on August 20, 2005, he said that such dialogue between Christians and Muslims "cannot be reduced to an optional extra," adding, "The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity."

As for the opinion of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text  certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence from whatever side it may come.

On this point, it is worth recalling what Pope Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative message for the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor Pope John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986, "... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time.... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions."

The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions.  Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom."

In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, he hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the "Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men" may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify "to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom" (Nostra Aetate, No. 3).

Pope Benedict XVI General Audience

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives toward an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.

I thank God for the interior joy which He made possible, and I am also grateful to all those who worked hard for the success of this pastoral visit.  As is the custom, I will speak more of this during next Wednesday's general audience.

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought.

Yesterday the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue with great mutual respect.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger's Birthday Greeting to His Brother Pope Benedict XVI

 April 16, 2006

Dear Joseph,

Oremus por invicem [Let us pray for one another]

May your onerous theological work of so many years be of guidance and help to carry out the grandiose task that God has entrusted to you.

May the Lord give you spiritual and intellectual inspiration as well as physical strength to be able to make just decisions and find appropriate words and maintain the courage and firmness in the face of the waves, which, according to the secret divine will, surround the Church and, with her, you also.

May God give us, in these last years of life toward which we are heading, a minimum of fraternal communion with the joy and warmth of before.

Your brother,

Georg

Pope Benedict XVI
Address to the Sick

 Shrine of Divine Mercy

 Lagiewniki, Poland

 Saturday, May 27,  2006

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am very pleased to be able to meet you during my visit here at the Shrine of Divine Mercy. I extend heartfelt greetings to all of you, to the sick, their caretakers, the priests engaged in pastoral ministry at the shrine, to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, to the members of the Faustinum and to all those present.

On this occasion we encounter two mysteries, the mystery of human suffering, and the mystery of Divine Mercy. At first sight these two mysteries seem to be opposed to one another. But when we study them more deeply in the light of faith, we find that they are placed in reciprocal harmony through the mystery of the Cross of Christ. As Pope John Paul II said in this place: "the Cross is the most profound bowing down of the Divinity toward man...the Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of humanity's earthly existence." (Aug. 17, 2002).

Dear friends who are sick, who are marked by suffering in body or soul, you are most closely united to the Cross of Christ, and at the same time you are the most eloquent witnesses of God's mercy. Through you and through your suffering, He bows down toward humanity with love. You who say in silence, "Jesus, I trust in you" teach us that there is no faith more profound, no hope more alive and no love more ardent than the faith, hope, and love of a person who, in the midst of suffering, places himself securely in God's hands. May the human hands of those who care for you in the name of mercy be an extension of the open hands of God.

I would so willingly embrace each one of you. But since this is impossible, I draw you spiritually to my heart, and I impart my blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI
Address to
 Young People 

Blonie Park, Krakow, Poland

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dear young friends,

I offer all of you my warmest welcome.  Your presence makes me happy. I thank the Lord for this cordial meeting. We know that "where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is in their midst" (cf. Matthew 18:20). Today you are much more numerous. Accordingly Jesus is here with us.  He is present among the young people of Poland speaking to them of a house that will never collapse because it is built on the rock. This is the Gospel that we have just heard (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).

My friends in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person's heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he cannot only return with joy but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon, and understanding.

It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed, and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy, and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire.  Do not run away from this desire. Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires, and faded longings.  God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life.

My friends this brings about a question: "How do we build this house?" Without doubt this is a question that you have already faced many times and that you will face many times more. Every day you must look into your heart and ask: "How do I build that house called life?" Jesus, whose words we just heard in the passage from the Evangelist Matthew, encourages us to build on the rock. In fact it is only in this way that the house will not crumble.

But what does it mean to build a house on a rock?

Building on a rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. Jesus says: "Every one who hears these words of mine and acts upon them will be like the wise man who built his house upon a rock" (Matthew 7:24). These are not just the empty words of some person or other: These are the words of Jesus. We are not listening to any person, we are listening to Jesus.  We are not asked to commit to just anything, we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus. To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called "crucified love."

It means to build with Someone who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: "You are precious in My eyes and honored, and I love you." (Isaiah 43:4).

It means to build with Someone who is always faithful even when we are lacking in faith because He cannot deny Himself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

It means to build with Someone who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: "I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again." (cf. John 8:11).

It means to build with Someone who, from the cross, extends His arms and repeats for all eternity: "O man, I give My life for you because I love you."

In short building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions, and plans on His will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ, "Lord in life I wish to do nothing against you because you know what is best for me. Only you have the words of eternal life" (cf. John 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ.  Long for Christ as the foundation of your life.  Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on Him and for Him.  Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose.

To build on a rock means to build on Christ and with Christ who is the rock. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul, speaking of the journey of the chosen people through the desert, explains that all "drank from the supernatural rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). The fathers of the chosen people certainly did not know that the rock was Christ. They were not aware of being accompanied by Him who in the fullness of time would become incarnate and take on a human body. They did not need to understand that their thirst would be satiated by the very Source of life capable of offering the living water which quenches every heart.

Nonetheless they drank from this spiritual rock that is Christ because they yearned for this living water and needed it. On the road of life we may sometimes not be aware of Jesus' presence.  However it is really this presence, living and true, in the work of creation, in the Word of God, and in the Eucharist, in the community of believers and in every man redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ which is the inexhaustible source of human strength.

Jesus of Nazareth, God made Man, is beside us during the good times and the bad times and He thirsts for this relationship, which is, in reality, the foundation of authentic humanity. We read in the Book of Revelation these important words: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

My friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means building on Someone who was rejected. Saint Peter speaks to the faithful of Christ as a "living stone rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious." (1 Peter 2:4).

The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil whereby man is able to reject Him who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus by man, which Saint Peter mentions, extends throughout human history, even to our own time.

One does not need great mental acuity to be aware of the many ways of rejecting Christ even on our own doorstep.  Often Jesus is ignored. He is mocked, and he is declared a king of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice. If in the process of building the house of your life you encounter those who scorn the foundation on which you are building, do not be discouraged.  A strong faith must endure tests. A living faith must always grow. Our faith in Jesus Christ, to be such, must frequently face others' lack of faith.

Dear friends, what does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock means being aware that there will be misfortunes. Christ says: "The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house ..." (Matthew 7:25).

These natural phenomena are not only an image of the many misfortunes of the human lot but they also indicate that such misfortunes are normally to be expected. Christ does not promise that a downpour will never inundate a house under construction. He does not promise that a devastating wave will never sweep away that which is most dear to us. He does not promise that strong winds will never carry away what we have built sometimes with enormous sacrifice.

Christ not only understands man's desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man's happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes whatever they may be. Do not be discouraged by them. An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust.

My friends, allow me to ask again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

It means to build wisely. It is not without reason that Jesus compares those who hear His words and put them into practice to a wise man who has built his house on the rock. It is foolish, in fact, to build on sand when you can do so on rock and therefore have a house that is capable of withstanding every storm. It is foolish to build a house on ground that does not offer the guarantee of support during the most difficult times.

Maybe it is easier to base one's life on the shifting sands of one's own worldview, building a future far from the word of Jesus and sometimes even opposed to it. Be assured that he who builds in this way is not prudent because he wants to convince himself and others that in his life no storm will rage and no wave will strike his house. To be wise means to know that the solidity of a house depends on the choice of foundation. Do not be afraid to be wise; that is to say, do not be afraid to build on the rock.

My friends, once again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock also means to build on Peter and with Peter. In fact the Lord said to him: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). If Christ, the Rock, the living and precious stone, calls his Apostle "rock," it means that he wants Peter, and together with him the entire Church, to be a visible sign of the one Savior and Lord.

Here, in Krakow, the beloved city of my predecessor John Paul II, no one is astonished by the words "to build with Peter and on Peter." For this reason I say to you, do not be afraid to build your life on the Church and with the Church. You are all proud of the love you have for Peter and for the Church entrusted to him. Do not be fooled by those who want to play Christ against the Church.

There is one foundation on which it is worthwhile to build a house. This foundation is Christ. There is only one rock on which it is worthwhile to place everything. This rock is the one to whom Christ said: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church." (Matthew 16:18).

Young people, you know well the Rock of our times. Accordingly, do not forget neither that Peter who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father nor this Peter who is now standing in front of you nor any successive Peter will ever be opposed to you or the building of a lasting house on the rock.  Indeed he will offer his heart and his hands to help you construct a life on Christ and with Christ.

Dear friends, meditating on Christ's words describing the rock as an adequate foundation for a house, we cannot help but notice that the last word is a hopeful one. Jesus says that, notwithstanding the harshness of the elements, the house is not destroyed, because it was built on the rock.

In his word there is an extraordinary confidence in the strength of the foundation, a faith that does not fear contradictions because it is confirmed by the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the faith that years later was professed by Saint Peter in his letter: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in Him will not be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6).

Certainly "he will not be put to shame."

Dear young friends, the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. It can paralyze the will, making one incapable of believing that it is really possible to build a house on the rock. It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life.

Together with Jesus, say to this fear: "A house founded on the rock cannot collapse."

Together with Saint Peter say to the temptation to doubt: "He who believes in Christ will not be put to shame." You are all witnesses to hope to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Pope Benedict XVI Homily

Pilsudski Square, Warsaw, Poland

Friday, May 26, 2006

Praise be Jesus Christ

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Our Lord,

"Together with you I wish to sing a hymn of praise to Divine Providence which enables me to be here as a pilgrim."  Twenty-seven years ago my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, began his homily in Warsaw with these words. I make them my own, and I thank the Lord who has enabled me to come here today to this historic square. Here on the eve of Pentecost Pope John Paul II uttered the significant words of the prayer "Let your Spirit descend, and renew the face of the earth." And he added: "the face of this land."

This very place witnessed the solemn funeral ceremony of the great primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, whose 25th anniversary occurs during these days. God united these two men not only through the same faith, hope, and love, but also through the same human vicissitudes which linked each of them so strongly to the history of this people and of the Church that lives in their midst.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote to Cardinal Wyszynski: "This Polish Pope would not be on the Chair of Peter today beginning a new pontificate full of the fear of God, but also full of trust, had it not been for your faith which did not bend in the face of imprisonment and suffering, your heroic hope, your trusting to the end in the Mother of the Church; had it not been for Jasna Gora and this whole period of the history of the Church in our homeland, linked to your service as bishop and primate" (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Polish People, October 23, 1978).

How can we not thank God today for all that was accomplished in your native land and in the whole world during the pontificate of John Paul II?  Before our eyes changes occurred in entire political, economic, and social systems.  People in various countries regained their freedom and their sense of dignity. "Let us not forget the great works of God" (cf. Psalm 78:7).

I thank you too for your presence and for your prayer. I thank the Cardinal Primate for the words that he addressed to me. I greet all the bishops present here. I am glad that the President and the authorities of national and local government could be here. I embrace with my heart all the Polish people both at home and abroad.

"Stand firm in your faith!" We have just heard the words of Jesus: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth" (John 14:15-17a). With these words Jesus reveals the profound link between faith and the profession of Divine Truth, between faith and dedication to Jesus Christ in love, between faith and the practice of a life inspired by the commandments.

All three dimensions of faith are the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. This action is manifested as an inner force that harmonizes the hearts of the disciples with the Heart of Christ and makes them capable of loving as he loved them.  Hence faith is a gift, but at the same time it is a task.

"He will give you another Counselor - the Spirit of Truth." Faith, as knowledge and profession of the truth about God and about man, "comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ," as Saint Paul says (Romans 10:17). Throughout the history of the Church, the apostles preached the word of Christ, taking care to hand it on intact to their successors who in their turn transmitted it to subsequent generations until our own day.  Many preachers of the Gospel gave their lives specifically because of their faithfulness to the truth of the word of Christ. And so solicitude for the truth gave birth to the Church's Tradition.

As in past centuries, so also today there are people or groups who obscure this centuries-old Tradition, seeking to falsify the Word of Christ and to remove from the Gospel those truths which in their view are too uncomfortable for modern man. They try to give the impression that everything is relative: Even the truths of faith would depend on the historical situation and on human evaluation. Yet the Church cannot silence the Spirit of Truth. The successors of the apostles, together with the Pope, are responsible for the truth of the Gospel, and all Christians are called to share in this responsibility, accepting its authoritative indications.

Every Christian is bound to confront his own convictions continually with the teachings of the Gospel and of the Church's Tradition in the effort to remain faithful to the word of Christ even when it is demanding and, humanly speaking, hard to understand.  We must not yield to the temptation of relativism or of a subjectivist and selective interpretation of sacred Scripture. Only the whole truth can open us to adherence to Christ, dead and risen for our salvation. Christ says: "If you love me ..."

Faith does not just mean accepting a certain number of abstract truths about the mysteries of God, of man, of life and death, of future realities. Faith consists in an intimate relationship with Christ, a relationship based on love of Him who loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:11) even to the total offering of Himself. "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

What other response can we give to a love so great if not that of a heart that is open and ready to love?  But what does it mean to love Christ? It means trusting him even in times of trial, following him faithfully even on the Via Crucis in the hope that soon the morning of the Resurrection will come. Entrusting ourselves to Christ we lose nothing, we gain everything.  In his hands our life acquires its true meaning.  Love for Christ expresses itself in the will to harmonize our own life with the thoughts and sentiments of His Heart.

This is achieved through interior union based on the grace of the sacraments, strengthened by continuous prayer, praise, thanksgiving and penance. We have to listen attentively to the inspirations that He evokes through his Word, through the people we meet, through the situations of daily life. To love Him is to remain in dialogue with Him in order to know His Will and to put it into effect promptly.

Yet living one's personal faith as a love relationship with Christ also means being ready to renounce everything that constitutes a denial of His love. That is why Jesus said to the apostles: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." But what are Christ's commandments?

When the Lord Jesus was teaching the crowds, He did not fail to confirm the law which the Creator had inscribed on men's hearts and had then formulated on the tablets of the Decalogue. "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18).

But Jesus showed us with a new clarity the unifying center of the divine laws revealed on Sinai, namely love of God and love of neighbor: "To love [God] with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). Indeed, in His life and in His paschal mystery Jesus brought the entire law to completion.  Uniting himself with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He carries with us and in us the "yoke" of the law which thereby becomes a "light burden" (Matthew 11:30).

In this spirit, Jesus formulated His list of the inner qualities of those who seek to live their faith deeply: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who weep, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake ... (cf. Matthew 5:3-12).

Dear brothers and sisters, faith as adherence to Christ is revealed as love that prompts us to promote the good inscribed by the Creator into the nature of every man and woman among us, into the personality of every other human being, and into everything that exists in the world. Whoever believes and loves in this way becomes a builder of the true "civilization of love," of which Christ is the center. Twenty-seven years ago, in this place, Pope John Paul II said: "Poland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness" (Warsaw, June 2, 1979).

I ask you now, cultivate this rich heritage of faith transmitted to you by earlier generations, the heritage of the thought and the service of that great Pole who was Pope John Paul II.  Stand firm in your faith, hand it down to your children, bear witness to the grace which you have experienced so abundantly through the Holy Spirit in the course of your history. May Mary, Queen of Poland, show you the way to her Son, and may she accompany you on your journey towards a happy, peace filled future. May your hearts never be wanting in love for Christ and for His Church. Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI
Urbi et Orbi Message

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christus resurrexit! - Christ is risen!

During last night’s great Vigil we relived the decisive and ever-present event of the Resurrection, the central mystery of the Christian faith.  Innumerable Paschal candles were lit in churches to symbolize the light of Christ which has enlightened and continues to enlighten humanity conquering the darkness of sin and death for ever.  And today there re-echo powerfully the words which dumbfounded the women on the morning of the first day after the Sabbath when they came to the tomb where Christ’s body, taken down in haste from the Cross, had been laid.  Sad and disconsolate over the loss of their Master, they found the great stone rolled away; and when they entered, they saw that his body was no longer there.  As they stood there, uncertain and bewildered, two men in dazzling apparel surprised them, saying: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, He is risen” (Lk 24:5-6). “Non est hic, sed resurrexit” (Lk 24:6).  Ever since that morning these words have not ceased to resound throughout the universe as a proclamation of joy which spans the centuries unchanged, and at the same time, charged with infinite and ever new resonances.

“He is not here . . . He is risen.”  The heavenly messengers announce first and foremost that Jesus “is not here”: the Son of God did not remain in the tomb because it was not possible for him to be held prisoner by death (cf. Acts 2:24), and the tomb could not hold onto “the living one” (Rev 1:18), who is the very source of life.  Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, so too Christ crucified was swallowed up into the heart of the earth (cf. Mt 12:40) for the length of a Sabbath.  Truly, “that Sabbath was a high day,” as Saint John tells us (Jn 19:31): The highest in history because it was then that the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt 12:8) brought to fulfilment the work of creation (cf. Gen 2:1-4a), raising man and the entire cosmos to the glorious liberty of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21).  When this extraordinary work had been accomplished, the lifeless body was suffused with the living breath of God and, as the walls of the tomb were shattered, He rose in glory.  That is why the angels proclaim “He is not here”, He can no longer be found in the tomb.  He made His pilgrim way on earth among us, He completed his journey in the tomb as all men do, but He conquered death and, in an absolutely new way, by an act of pure love, He opened the earth, threw it open towards Heaven.

His resurrection becomes our resurrection, through Baptism, which “incorporates” us into Him. The prophet Ezekiel had foretold this: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel” (Ez 37:12).  These prophetic words take on a singular value on Easter Day because today the Creator’s promise is fulfilled.  Today, even in this modern age marked by anxiety and uncertainty, we relive the event of the Resurrection which changed the face of our life and changed the history of humanity.  From the risen Christ, all those who are still oppressed by chains of suffering and death look for hope, sometimes even without knowing it.

May the Spirit of the Risen one, in particular, bring relief and security in Africa to the peoples of Darfur who are living in a dramatic humanitarian situation that is no longer sustainable; to those of the Great Lakes region where many wounds have yet to be healed; to the peoples of the Horn of Africa, of the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations which aspire to reconciliation, justice and progress.  In Iraq may peace finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims.  I also pray sincerely that those caught up in the conflict in the Holy Land may find peace, and I invite all to patient and persevering dialogue so as to remove both ancient and new obstacles.  May the international community, which re-affirms Israel’s just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future moving towards the constitution of a state that is truly their own.  May the Spirit of the Risen one enkindle a renewed enthusiastic commitment of the countries of Latin America so that the living conditions of millions of citizens may be improved and democratic institutions may be consolidated in a spirit of harmony and effective solidarity. Concerning the international crises linked to nuclear power, may an honorable solution be found for all parties through serious and honest negotiations, and may the leaders of nations and of international organizations be strengthened in their will to achieve peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures, and religions in order to remove the threat of terrorism.

May the Risen Lord grant that the strength of His life, peace and freedom be experienced everywhere.  Today the words with which the Angel reassured the frightened hearts of the women on Easter morning are addressed to all: “Do not be afraid! ... He is not here; He is risen (Mt 28:5-6)”. Jesus is risen, and he gives us peace; he Himself is peace.  For this reason the Church repeats insistently: “Christ is risen - Christós anésti.” Let the people of the third millennium not be afraid to open their hearts to him.  His Gospel totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every human heart. Christ is now alive and He walks with us.  What an immense mystery of love!  Christus resurrexit, quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!

Pope Benedict XVI
Christmas 2005 Homily

"The Lord said to me: You are my son; this day I have begotten you." With these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the Vigil Mass of Christmas, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer in a stable in Bethlehem. This psalm was once a part of the coronation rite of the kings of Judah. The people of Israel, in virtue of its election, considered itself in a special way a son of God, adopted by God. Just as the king was the personification of the people, his enthronement was experienced as a solemn act of adoption by God, whereby the king was in some way taken up into the very mystery of God. [On] Bethlehem Night, these words, which were really more an expression of hope than a present reality, took on new and unexpected meaning. The Child lying in the manger is truly God's Son. God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But there is more: In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. To him the Father says: "You are my son." God's everlasting "today" has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God's eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenseless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendor and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: "You are my son, this day I have begotten you."

God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: This is how God is. This is how we come to know him. And on every child shines something of the splendor of that "today," of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield -- it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.

Let us listen to a second phrase from the liturgy of this holy night, one taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: "Upon the people who walked in darkness a great light has shone" (Isaiah 9:1). The word "light" pervades the entire liturgy of tonight's Mass. It is found again in the passage drawn from St. Paul's letter to Titus: "The grace of God has appeared" (2:11). The expression "has appeared," in the original Greek says the same thing that was expressed in Hebrew by the words "a light has shone": this "apparition" -- this "epiphany" -- is the breaking of God's light upon a world full of darkness and unsolved problems. The Gospel then relates that the glory of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and "shone around them" (Luke 2:9). Wherever God's glory appears, light spreads throughout the world. St. John tells us that "God is light and in him is no darkness" (1 John 1:5). The light is a source of life.

But first, light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance. Light gives us life, it shows us the way. But light, as a source of heat, also means love. Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness. In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits. In that Child lying in the stable, God has shown his glory -- the glory of love, which gives itself away, stripping itself of all grandeur in order to guide us along the way of love. The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished. In every age it has touched men and women, "it has shone around them."

Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up -- charity toward others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness. From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries. If we look to the saints -- from Paul and Augustine to Francis and Dominic, from Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila to Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- we see this flood of goodness, this path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, by that God who became a Child. In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness. He calls us to follow that Child.

Along with the Christmas tree, our Austrian friends have also brought us a small flame lit in Bethlehem, as if to say that the true mystery of Christmas is the inner brightness radiating from this Child. May that inner brightness spread to us, and kindle in our hearts the flame of God's goodness; may all of us, by our love, bring light to the world! Let us keep this light-giving flame from being extinguished by the cold winds of our time! Let us guard it faithfully and give it to others! On this night, when we look toward Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there. We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land: Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you! Let your light shine upon it! Let it know peace!

The word "peace" brings us to a third key to the liturgy of this holy night. The Child foretold by Isaiah is called "Prince of Peace." His kingdom is said to be one "of endless peace." The shepherds in the Gospel hear the glad tidings: "Glory to God in the highest" and "on earth, peace ...." At one time we used to say: "to men of good will." Nowadays we say "to those whom God loves." What does this change mean? Is good will no longer important? We would do better to ask: Who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? Does God have favorites? Does he love only certain people, while abandoning the others to themselves?

The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves. There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the "Magi." Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: They were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: They kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: They were ready to receive God's word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him.

Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness -- a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way. That is what is important for God. He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature. But some persons have closed their hearts; there is no door by which his love can enter. They think that they do not need God, nor do they want him. Other persons, who, from a moral standpoint, are perhaps no less wretched and sinful, at least experience a certain remorse. They are waiting for God. They realize that they need his goodness, even if they have no clear idea of what this means. Into their expectant hearts God's light can enter, and with it, his peace. God seeks persons who can be vessels and heralds of his peace. Let us pray that he will not find our hearts closed. Let us strive to be active heralds of his peace -- in the world of today.

Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: It has become a name for the Eucharist. There Christ's peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the "house of bread." Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfill your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen."

Pope Benedict XVI
Vacation Message

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have been here for a few days in the marvelous mountains of Val d'Aosta, where the memory is still alive of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II who for several years spent brief relaxing and invigorating stays here.

This summer pause is a truly providential gift of God after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that Divine Providence has entrusted to me. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the Bishop of Aosta, esteemed Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, and to all those who made it possible as well as to those who with discretion and generous giving see to it that everything runs smoothly.  Moreover, I am also grateful to the local population and to tourists for their cordial welcome.

In the world in which we live, it is almost a necessity to be able to regain one's strength of body and spirit especially for those who live in the city where the conditions of life, often feverish, leave little room for silence, reflection, and relaxed contact with nature.

Moreover holidays are days in which more time can be dedicated to prayer, reading, and meditation on the profound meaning of life in the peaceful context of one's family and loved ones.

Vacation time offers the unique opportunity to pause before the thought-provoking spectacles of nature which is a wonderful book within reach of everyone both adults and children.  In contact with nature a person rediscovers his correct place in the world, rediscovers himself as a creature, small, but at the same time unique, with a capacity for God because internally he is open to the Infinite. Driven by his heartfelt urgent search for meaning, he perceives in the surrounding world the mark of goodness and Divine Providence and opens almost naturally to praise and prayer.

Reciting the Angelus together in this pleasant Alpine locality, let us ask the Virgin Mary to teach us the secret of the silence that becomes praise, of recollection that disposes to meditation, of love of nature that blossoms in thanksgiving to God. We will thus be able to receive more easily in our hearts the light of Truth and practice it in freedom and love.

Pope Benedict XVI
Installation Homily

April 24, 2005

Your Eminences,
My Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During these days of great intensity, we have chanted the litany of the saints on three different occasions: At the funeral of our Holy Father, John Paul II; as the cardinals entered the conclave; and again today, when we sang it with the response, Tu illum adiuva, sustain the new successor of Saint Peter.

On each occasion, in a particular way, I found great consolation in listening to this prayerful chant.  How alone we all felt after the passing of John Paul II, the pope who for over twenty six years had been our shepherd and guide on our journey through life!  He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone.  Those who believe are never alone neither in life nor in death.  At that moment, we could call upon the saints from every age, his friends, his brothers and sisters in the faith, knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God.  We knew that his arrival was awaited.  Now we know that he is among his own and is truly at home.

We were also consoled as we made our solemn entrance into conclave to elect the one whom the Lord had chosen.  How would we be able to discern his name?  How could 115 bishops from every culture and every country discover the one on whom the Lord wished to confer the mission of binding and loosening?  Once again, we knew that we were not alone, we knew that we were surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God.  And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task which truly exceeds all human capacity.  How can I do this?  How will I be able to do it?  All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of saints represented by some of the great names in the history of God's dealings with mankind.  In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone.  I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me, and to carry me.  And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith and your hope accompany me.

Indeed, the communion of saints consists not only of the great men and women who went before us and whose names we know. All of us belong to the communion of saints, we who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we who draw life from the gift of Christ's Body and Blood through which He transforms us and makes us like himself.  Yes, the Church is alive. This is the wonderful experience of these days.  During those sad days of the pope's illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive.  And the Church is young.  She holds within herself the future of the world; and, therefore, shows each of us the way toward the future.  The Church is alive, and we are seeing it; we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers. The Church is alive, she is alive because Christ is alive, because He is truly risen.  In the suffering that we saw on the Holy Father's face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of Christ's Passion and we touched His wounds. But throughout these days, we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One.  We have been able to experience the joy that He promised, after a brief period of darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection.

The Church is alive with these words, I greet with great joy and gratitude all of you gathered here, my venerable brother cardinals and bishops, my dear priests, deacons, Church workers, catechists.  I greet you, men and women religious, witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God.  I greet you, members of the lay faithful, immersed in the great task of building up the Kingdom of God which spreads throughout the world in every area of life.  With great affection, I also greet all those who have been reborn in the sacrament of Baptism but are not yet in full communion with us; and you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God's irrevocable promises.  Finally, like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and nonbelievers alike.

Dear friends!  At this moment there is no need for me to present a program of governance.  I was able to give an indication of what I see as my task in my message of Wednesday, April 20, and there will be other opportunities to do so. My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.  Instead of putting forward a program, I should simply like to comment on the two liturgical symbols which represent the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry; both these symbols, moreover, reflect clearly what we heard proclaimed in today's readings.

The first symbol is the Pallium, woven in pure wool, which will be placed on my shoulders. This ancient sign, which the bishops of Rome have worn since the fourth century, may be considered an image of the yoke of Christ, which the bishop of this City, the servant of the servants of God, takes upon his shoulders. God's yoke is God's will, which we accept.  And this will does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom.  To know what God wants, to know where the path of life is found, this was Israel's joy, this was her great privilege. It is also our joy: God's will does not alienate us, it purifies us even if this can be painful; and so it leads us to ourselves. In this way, we serve not only Him, but the salvation of the whole world, of all history. The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: The lamb's wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life.  For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church.  The human race, every one of us, is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The Son of God will not let this happen; He cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity, He carries us all, He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. What the Pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ.  But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the Pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherds mission, of which the second reading and the Gospel speak.

The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal, for Him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert.  And there are so many kinds of desert.  There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction.  The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert toward the place of life, toward friendship with the Son of God, toward the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning.  In the Ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people.  This was an image of their power, a cynical image. To them, their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished.  When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God Himself became a lamb, He stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed.  This is how He reveals himself to be the true shepherd: "I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep," Jesus says of himself (John 10:14f).  It is not power, but love that redeems us!  This is God's sign: He himself is love.  How often we wish that God would show Himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way: They justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity.

We suffer on account of God's patience.  And yet we need His patience.  God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the crucified One, not by those who crucified Him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God.  It is destroyed by the impatience of man.  One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. "Feed my sheep," says Christ to Peter; and now, at this moment, He says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer.  Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God's truth, of God's word, the nourishment of His presence, which He gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.  My dear friends, at this moment I can only say,  pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more.  Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more; in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together.  Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.  Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us, and that we will learn to carry one another.

The second symbol used in today's liturgy to express the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry is the presentation of the fisherman's ring.  Peter's call to be a shepherd, which we heard in the Gospel, comes after the account of a miraculous catch of fish.  After a night in which the disciples had let down their nets without success, they see the Risen Lord on the shore.  He tells them to let down their nets once more, and the nets become so full that they can hardly pull them in.  153 large fish "...and although there were so many, the net was not torn" (John 21:11). This account, coming at the end of Jesus' earthly journey with his disciples, corresponds to an account found at the beginning.  There too, the disciples had caught nothing the entire night; there too, Jesus had invited Simon once more to put out into the deep.  And Simon, who was not yet called Peter, gave the wonderful reply, "Master, at your word I will let down the nets."  And then came the conferral of his mission, "Do not be afraid. Henceforth you will be catching men." (Luke 5:1-11). Today, too, the Church and the successors of the Apostles are told to put out into the deep sea of history and to let down the nets so as to win men and women over to the Gospel to God, to Christ, to true life. The Fathers made a very significant commentary on this singular task. This is what they say: For a fish, created for water, it is fatal to be taken out of the sea, to be removed from its vital element to serve as human food.

But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death, in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of Gods light, into true life.  It is really true as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so, the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men.  And only where God is seen does life truly begin.  Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.  We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.  Each of us is the result of a thought of God.  Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.  There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.  The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome.  But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God's joy which longs to break into the world.

Here I want to add something: Both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. "I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of his discourse on the Good Shepherd. And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: "...although there were so many, the net was not torn." (John 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no, we must not be sad!  Let us rejoice because of your promise which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path toward the unity you have promised.  Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord as we plead with him: Yes, Lord, remember your promise.  Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!

At this point, my mind goes back to October 22, 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter's Square.  His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: "Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!" The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let Him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free.  Yes, He would certainly have taken something away from them, the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased.  But He would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society. The pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young.  Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?  If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?  Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful?  Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.  No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide.  Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.  Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.

And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people:  Do not be afraid of Christ!  He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything.  When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return.  Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ, and you will find true life.  Amen.

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