Benedict XVI visit to Brindisi  (July 2, 2008)

Pope to Priests, Deacons and Seminarians of Brindisi
"Place Yourselves With Ever Growing Openness at the Service of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 15 address Benedict XVI to the priests, deacons and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Brindisi at the city's cathedral.

* * *

Dearest priests, deacons and seminarians,

I am pleased to address my cordial greeting to all of you gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, reopened for worship after its restoration last November. I thank Archbishop Rocco Talucci for the warm welcome he has addressed to me in your name and for all his gifts. I greet the priests to whom I wish to express my satisfaction at the immense and structured pastoral work they carry out. I greet the deacons, the seminarians and everyone present and express my joy at being surrounded by a large crowd of souls consecrated for the advent of the Kingdom of God. Here in the Cathedral, which is the heart of the Diocese, we all feel at home, united by the bond of Christ's love. Let us commemorate here with gratitude those who spread Christianity in these regions: Brindisi was the first city of the West to welcome the Gospel, which reached it on the Roman consular roads. Among the evangelizing Saints I think of Bishop St Leucius, of St Oronzo, St Theodore of Amasea and St Lawrence of Brindisi, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by John XXIII. Their presence lives on in the hearts of the people and is witnessed to by many of the city's monuments.

Dear brothers, in seeing you gathered in this Church, in which many of you received your diaconal and presbyteral ordination, I remember the words that St Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: "Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the Bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ". And the holy Bishop added: "Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you" (Letter to the Ephesians, 4). Persevere, dear priests, in seeking this unity of intention and reciprocal help, so that fraternal charity and unity in pastoral work are an example and incentive for your communities. This, above all, was the goal of the pastoral visits your Archbishop made to your parishes which ended last March. Due, precisely, to your generous collaboration, it was not merely a juridical exercise but an extraordinary event of ecclesial and formative value. I am certain that it will be fruitful since the Lord will make the seed sown with love grow abundantly in the hearts of the faithful.

I would like to encourage you with my presence today to place yourselves with ever growing openness at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. I know that you already work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no energy in spreading the joyful Gospel proclamation. Christ, to whom you have consecrated your lives, is with you! In him we all believe, to him alone we entrust our lives, it is he whom we desire to proclaim to the world. May Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14: 6), be the object of our thought, the topic of our words, the reason for our life. Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus' example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to congratulate you on the new Archdiocesan Seminary which was inaugurated last November by my Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. On the one hand, it expresses the present state of a Diocese, understood as the culmination of work undertaken by priests and parishes in the area of the pastoral care of youth, in teaching the catechism, in the religious animation of families. On the other hand, the Seminary is a precious investment for the future, because it ensures that through patient and generous work the Christian community will not be deprived of shepherds of souls, of teachers of faith and of zealous guides and witnesses of Christ's charity. Besides being the place of your formation, dear seminarians, true hope of the Church, this seminary of yours is also a place for the up-dating and continuing formation of youth and adults who wish to make their contribution to the cause of the Kingdom of God. The careful formation of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests and other pastoral workers is a primary concern of your Bishop, to whom God has entrusted the mission of guiding the People of God who live in your City as a wise pastor.

Another opportunity for the spiritual growth of your community is the Archdiocesan Synod, the first since the Second Vatican Council and since the unification of the two Dioceses of Brindisi and Ostuni. It is an opportunity to relaunch the apostolic commitment of the entire Diocese but above all it is a privileged moment of communion that is a help in the rediscovery of the value of fraternal service, as indicated in the biblical scene of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13: 12-17) that you chose, with the words of Jesus that comment on it: "As I have done" (Jn 13: 15). If it is true that the Synod, every Synod, is called to establish laws and to issue the appropriate norms for an organic pastoral activity, raising and stimulating renewed commitment to evangelization and Gospel witness, it is also true that a Synod must reawaken in every baptized person the missionary outreach that constantly animates the Church.

Dear brother priests, the Pope assures you of his special remembrance in prayer so that you may continue on the journey of authentic spiritual renewal which you have been making with your community. May the experience of "being together" in faith and reciprocal love help you in this commitment, like the Apostles around Christ in the Upper Room. It was there that the Divine Teacher taught them, opening their eyes to the splendour of the truth and giving them the sacrament of unity and love: the Eucharist. In the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, at the moment of the washing of the feet, it clearly emerged that service is one of the fundamental dimensions of Christian life. It is therefore a duty of the Synod to help all the members of your local Church to rediscover the meaning and the joy of service: a service for love. This applies above all for you, dear priests, configured to Christ "Head and Pastor", always ready to guide his flock. Be thankful and happy for the gift received! Be generous in carrying out your ministry! Sustain it with assiduous prayer and a continuing cultural, theological and spiritual formation!

While I renew the expression of my lively appreciation and my warmest encouragement, I invite you and the entire Archdiocese to prepare for the Pauline Year which is shortly to begin. It can be an occasion on which to relaunch generous missionary activity, for a more profound proclamation of the Word of God, welcomed, meditated and translated into a fruitful apostolate, as it happened exactly for the Apostle to the Gentiles. Conquered by Christ, Paul lived entirely for him and for his Gospel, spending his existence even to the point of martyrdom. May you be assisted by the Blessed Mother of the Church and Virgin of Listening; may the Patron Saints of this beloved land of Apulia protect you. Be missionaries of God's love; may each of your parishes experience the joy of belonging to Christ. As a pledge of divine grace and of the gifts of his Spirit, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.

Benedict XVI's Homily at Port of Brindisi
"Make His Love, This Force of Peace and of True Life, Present on Our Earth"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 15 homily Benedict XVI gave during the Mass he said at the St Apollinaris Wharf, Port of Brindisi.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Lord's Day, in the middle of my Visit to Brindisi, we are celebrating the mystery which is the source and summit of the Church's whole life. We are celebrating Christ in the Eucharist, the greatest gift that flowed from his divine and human Heart, the Bread of Life, broken and shared to enable us to become one with him and with one another. I greet with affection all of you who have gathered at the port, this deeply symbolic place which calls to mind the missionary journeys of Peter and Paul. I rejoice to see the many young people who enlivened last night's vigil in preparation for the Eucharistic celebration. And I also greet you, who are taking part in spirit by means of radio and television. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rocco Talucci, the Pastor of this beloved Church, and thank him for his words at the beginning of Holy Mass. I also greet the other Bishops of Apulia who have desired to be here with us with sentiments of fraternal communion. The presence of Metropolitan Gennadios gives me special pleasure and I offer him my cordial greeting, which I extend to all the Orthodox brethren and those of the other Denominations, from this Church of Brindisi which, because of her ecumenical vocation, invites us to pray and to work for the full unity of all Christians. With gratitude I greet the Civil and Military Authorities who are taking part in this liturgy, and wish them every good for their service. My affectionate thoughts then go to the priests and deacons, to the women and men religious and to all the faithful. I address a special greeting to the sick in hospital and to the prisoners in jail, to whom I assure my remembrance in prayer. Grace and peace on the part of the Lord to everyone and to the entire city of Brindisi!

The biblical texts we have heard on this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time help us to understand the reality of the Church: the First Reading (cf. Ex 19: 2-6a) recalled the Covenant made on Mount Sinai, during the Exodus from Egypt; the Gospel (cf. Mt 9: 36-10: 8) consisted of the account of the call and mission of the Twelve Apostles. We find the "constitution" of the Church presented here: how can we fail to perceive the implicit invitation addressed to every Community to renew its own vocation and missionary drive? In the First Reading the sacred author tells of God's Covenant with Moses and with Israel on Sinai. This is one of the great milestones in salvation history, one of those moments that transcend history itself in which the boundary between the Old and New Testaments disappears and the eternal plan of the God of the Covenant is manifest: the plan for the salvation of all men and women through the sanctification of a people to which God proposes to become "my own possession among all peoples" (Ex 19: 5). In this perspective, the people is called to become a "holy nation", not only in the moral sense, but first and above all in its own ontological reality, in its being as a people. Already in the Old Testament, how the identity of this people is to be understood is gradually made clear in the course of the salvific events; then it was fully revealed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Today's Gospel presents us with a decisive moment for this revelation. In fact, when Jesus called the Twelve he desired to refer symbolically to the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to the 12 sons of Jacob. Thus, by placing the Twelve at the centre of his new community, he makes it understood that he came to bring the heavenly Father's design to completion, even if the new face of the Church was to appear only at Pentecost when the Twelve, "filled with the Holy Spirit" proclaimed the Gospel, and spoke in all the languages (Acts 2: 3-4). It was then that the universal Church was to be made manifest, gathered in a single Body of which the Risen Christ is Head yet, at the same time, sent by him to all the nations, even to the very ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28: 19).

Jesus' style is unmistakeable: it is the characteristic style of God who likes to do great things in a poor and humble manner. The solemnity of the accounts of the Covenant in the Book of Exodus leaves room in the Gospels for humble and discreet gestures which nevertheless contain an enormous potential for renewal. It is the logic of the Kingdom of God, not by chance represented by the tiny seed that becomes a great tree (cf. Mt 13: 31-32). The Covenant of Sinai was accompanied by cosmic signs that terrified the Israelites; the beginnings of the Church in Galilee, on the contrary, were exempt from such manifestations and reflect the docility and compassion of Christ's Heart although they foretold another battle, another upheaval, inspired by the forces of evil. Christ gave to the Twelve, we heard, "authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity" (Mt 10: 1). The Twelve must cooperate with Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God, that is, his beneficial, life-giving lordship, and life in abundance for the whole of humanity. The Church in essence, like Christ and together with him, is called and sent out to establish the Kingdom of life and to drive out the dominion of death so that the life of God may triumph in the world; so that God who is Love may triumph. Christ's work is always silent, it is not spectacular; the great tree of true life grows even in the humility of being Church, of living the Gospel every day. Precisely with these humble beginnings the Lord encourages us so that in the humility of the Church today too, in the poverty of our Christian lives, we may see his presence and thus have the courage to go to meet him and make his love, this force of peace and of true life, present on our earth. So this was God's plan: to spread over humanity and throughout the cosmos his love that generates life. It was not a spectacular process; it was a humble process, yet it brought with it the true power of the future and of history.

Thus it is a plan that the Lord desires to implement with respect for our freedom, for love, by its nature, cannot be imposed. The Church in Christ then is the place in which to accept and mediate God's love. In this perspective it is clear that the Church's holiness and missionary character are two sides of the same coin: only because she is holy, that is, filled with divine love, can the Church carry out her mission, and it is precisely in terms of this task that God chose her and sanctified her as his property. Our first duty, therefore, precisely in order to heal this world, is to be holy, configured to God; in this way we emanate a healing and transforming power that also acts on others, on history. Your Ecclesial Community, dear brothers and sisters, involved as it is in the Diocesan Synod in this period, is measuring itself at this moment against the double term, "holiness-mission" - holiness is always a force that transforms others. In this regard, it is useful to reflect that the Twelve Apostles were not perfect men, chosen for their moral and religious irreproachability. They were indeed believers, full of enthusiasm and zeal but at the same time marked by their human limitations, which were sometimes even serious. Therefore Jesus did not call them because they were already holy, complete, perfect, but so that they might become so, so that they might thereby also transform history, as it is for us, as it is for all Christians. In the Second Reading we heard the Apostle Paul's synthesis: "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rm 5: 8). The Church is the community of sinners who believe in God's love, letting themselves be transformed by him and thus become holy, sanctifying the world.

In the light of God's providential words, today I have the joy of strengthening your Church on her way. It is a way of holiness and mission on which your Archbishop has invited you to reflect in his recent Pastoral Letter; it is a way he has thoroughly examined in the course of his Pastoral Visit and which he now intends to promote through the Diocesan Synod. Today's Gospel suggests to us the style of the mission, in other words the interior attitude that is expressed in life lived. It can only be Jesus' style: that of "compassion". The Evangelist highlights this by focusing attention on Christ looking at the crowd. He wrote: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9: 36). And after the call of the Twelve, this attitude is once again apparent in the order he gives them to go "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10: 6). Christ's love for his people, especially the lowly and the poor, can be felt in these words. Christian compassion has nothing to do with pietism or the culture of dependency. Rather, it is synonymous with solidarity and sharing and is enlivened by hope. Were not Jesus' words to the Apostles born from hope: "Preach as you go, saying, "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'" (Mt 10: 7)? This is hope founded on Christ's coming and ultimately coincides with his Person and his mystery of salvation - where Christ is, there is the Kingdom of God, there is the newness of the world - as the theme of the Fourth Ecclesial Convention of Italy celebrated in Verona clearly recalled: the Risen Christ is the "hope of the world".

Enlivened by the hope in which you have been saved, may you too, brothers and sisters of this ancient Church of Brindisi, be signs and instruments of the compassion and mercy of Christ. To the Archbishop and priests I fervently repeat the words of the divine Teacher: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay" (Mt 10: 8). This mandate is once again addressed in the first place to you today. The Spirit who acted in Christ and in the Twelve, is the same as the One who works in you and enables you to perform among your people, in this territory, signs of the Kingdom of love, justice and peace that is coming, indeed, that is already in the world. Yet, through the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, all the members of the People of God participate in Jesus' mission if in different ways. I am thinking of consecrated people who profess the vows of poverty, virginity and obedience; I am thinking of Christian married couples and of you, lay faithful committed to the Ecclesial Community and to society, both personally and as a group. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus' desire to increase the number of workers in the Lord's harvest (cf. Mt 9: 38) is addressed to you all. This desire, which is asking to be made a prayer, reminds us in the first place of seminarians and of the new Seminary in this Archdiocese; it makes us realize that in a broad sense the Church is one great "seminary", beginning with the family and extending to the parish communities, the associations and movements of apostolic commitment. We are all, with the variety of our charisms and ministries, called to work in the Lord's vineyard.

Dear brothers and sisters of Brindisi, continue in this spirit on the way on which you have set out. May your Patrons, St Leucius and St Oronzo, both of whom arrived from the East in the second century to water this land with the living water of the Word of God, watch over you. May the relics of St Theodore of Amasea, venerated in the Cathedral of Brindisi, remind you that giving one's life for Christ is the most effective preaching. May St Lawrence, a son of this City who, in Francis of Assisi's footsteps, became an apostle of peace in a Europe torn apart by wars and disputes, obtain for you the gift of authentic brotherhood. I entrust you all to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and Star of Evangelization. May the Blessed Virgin help you to remain in the love of Christ, so that you may bear abundant fruit for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of the world. Amen.


Pope's Words to People of Brindisi
"The Key to Every Hope Is Found in Love"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 14 address Benedict XVI gave in Brindisi's city center upon being greeted by local government representatives and the region's youth.

* * *

Mr Minister,
Mr Mayor and Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like first of all to express my joy at being in your midst and I greet you all very warmly. I thank the Hon. Raffaele Fitto, Minister for Regional Affairs, who has conveyed the Government's greeting to me and I thank the Mayor of Brindisi for his fervent words of welcome on behalf of all the citizens, as well as for his kind gift. I greet and thank with affection the young man who spoke on behalf of the youth of Brindisi. I know, dear young people, that you animated the assembly while awaiting my arrival and that you will continue at a prayer vigil, with which you desire to prepare for the Eucharistic celebration tomorrow. I cordially greet Archbishop Rocco Talucci, your Pastor, Archbishop emeritus Settimio Todisco, the priests, the men and women religious and all those present.

Here I am among you, dear friends! I very gladly accepted the invitation of your diocesan community's Pastor and I am glad to visit this city of yours which, while playing an important role in the context of Southern Italy, is called to project its image beyond the Adriatic Sea to communicate with other cities and other peoples. Actually, Brindisi was once a place from which traders, legionaries, students and pilgrims embarked for the East and it remains a door open on the sea. In recent years, the newspapers and television have shown pictures of refugees from Croatia and from Montenegro, from Albania and from Macedonia who landed in Brindisi. I believe it is only right to remember with gratitude the efforts made, which are still being made, by the Civil and Military Administrations in collaboration with the Church and with various humanitarian organizations to provide shelter and assistance for them despite the financial difficulties which, unfortunately, continue to be a cause of concern particularly to your Region. Your City has been and continues to be generous and this merit was justly recognized by the assignment, in the context of international solidarity, of an authentic institutional role: indeed it hosts the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, run by United Nations' World Food Programme.

Dear People of Brindisi, this solidarity is part of the virtues which make up your rich civil and religious patrimony: continue with a renewed impetus to build your future together. Among the values that have taken root in your region I would like to recall respect for life and, especially, attachment to the family, today exposed to the converging attacks of numerous forces that seek to undermine it. How necessary and urgent it is, in the face of these challenges too, for all people of good will to strive to safeguard the family, the solid basis on which to build the life of society as a whole! Your society is also founded on the Christian faith which your ancestors considered as one of the elements that qualified the identity of the people of Brindisi. May adherence to the Gospel, consciously renewed and lived with responsibility, spur you today, as in the past, to face the difficulties and challenges of the present time with confidence. May faith encourage you to respond without compromise to your city's legitimate expectations of the human and social advancement. The new University, called to serve those who are aware of their dignity and tasks and who desire to play an active part in life, cannot fail to make its own contribution to the economic, political, cultural and religious development of the territory. Dear People of Brindisi, so that the culture of solidarity may increase in your City, serve one another, letting yourselves be guided by an authentic spirit of brotherhood. God is with you and will not let you be deprived of the constant support of his grace.

I would now like to address in particular the many young people present. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome, thank you for the fervent sentiments expressed by your representative. Your voices, which find an immediate correspondence in my heart, communicate to me your trusting exuberance and your will to live. I also perceive in them the problems that assail you which sometimes risk stifling the enthusiasm typical of this season of your life. I am aware, in particular, of the burden that weighs upon many of you and upon your future because of the dramatic phenomenon of unemployment which primarily affects the young men and women of Southern Italy. Likewise, I know that your youth is threatened by the demand for easy earnings, by the temptation to seek refuge in artificial paradises or to let yourselves be attracted by distorted forms of material satisfaction. Do not let yourselves be caught in the snares of evil! Rather, seek an existence rich in values in order to give life to a society that is more just and more open to the future. Bring to fruition the gifts with which God has endowed your youth: strength, intelligence, courage, enthusiasm and determination to live. On the basis of these attributes, relying always on divine support, you will be able to nourish hope within you and around you. It is up to you and to your hearts to ensure that progress is transformed into a greater good for all. And the way of good - as you know - has a name: it is called love.

The key to every hope is found in love, solely in authentic love, because love is rooted in God. We read in the Bible: "We know and believe the love God has for us. God is love" (1 Jn 4: 16). And God's love has the sweet and compassionate Face of Jesus Christ. Here then we have reached the heart of the Christian message: Christ is the response to your questions and problems; in him every honest aspiration of the human being is strengthened. Christ, however, is demanding and shuns half measures. He knows he can count on your generosity and coherence; for this reason he expects a lot of you. Follow him faithfully and, in order to encounter him love his Church, feel responsible, do not avoid being courageous protagonists, each in his own context. Here is a point to which I would like to call your attention: seek to know the Church, to understand and love her, paying attention to the voice of her Pastors. She is made up of human beings, but Christ is her Head and his Spirit firmly guides her. You are the youthful face of the Church so do not fail to make your contribution in order that the Gospel she proclaims may spread everywhere. Be apostles of your peers!

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your welcome. I have read several letters sent to me by young people of your Province. I learned from them, dear friends, to understand your situation better. Thank you for your affection. I assure you and all the people of Brindisi of my prayers that you may witness to the Gospel message of peace and justice. May Mary, Regina Apuliae, protect you and accompany you always. I warmly bless you and wish you all a good night!


Papal Homily at Shrine of Mary "De Finibus Terrae"
"Mary Shines on the Sea of Life and History as a Star of Hope"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 14 homily Benedict XVI gave at the shrine dedicated to Mary "De Finibus Terrae" (at the end of the earth) in Santa Maria di Leuca.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Visit in Apulia, the second after the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, begins as a Marian pilgrimage, on this extreme tip of Italy and Europe, at the Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae. With great joy I address my affectionate greeting to you all. I warmly greet Bishop Vito De Grisantis for having invited me and for his cordial welcome; together with him I greet the other Bishops of the Region, in particular Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi of Lecce, as well as all the priests and deacons, consecrated persons and all the faithful. With gratitude I greet Minister Raffaele Fitto, who is representing the Italian Government, and the various civil and military Authorities present.

In this place, so important historically for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wanted the liturgy to be dedicated to her, Star of the Sea and Star of Hope. "Ave, maris stella, / Dei Mater alma, / atque semper virgo, / felix caeli porta!". The words of this ancient hymn are a greeting which in some way echoes that of the Angel at Nazareth. All Marian titles, in fact, have as it were budded and blossomed from that first name with which the heavenly messenger addressed the Virgin: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk 1: 28). We heard it in St Luke's Gospel, most appropriately because this Shrine - as the memorial tablet above the central door of the atrium attests - is called after the Most Holy Virgin of the "Annunciation". When God called Mary "full of grace" the hope of salvation for the human race was enkindled: a daughter of our people found grace in the Lord's eyes, he chose her as Mother of the Redeemer. In the simplicity of Mary's home, in a poor village of Galilee, the solemn prophecy of salvation began to be fulfilled: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gn 3: 15). Therefore the Christian people have made their own the canticle of praise that the Jews raised to Judith and that just a little while ago we prayed as a Responsorial Psalm: "O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth" (Jdt 13: 18). Without violence but with the meek courage of her "yes", the Virgin freed us, not from an earthly enemy but from the ancient adversary, by giving a human body to the One who was to crush his head once and for all.

This is why Mary shines on the sea of life and history as a Star of Hope. She does not shine with her own light, but reflects the light of Christ, the Sun who appeared on humanity's horizon so that in following the Star of Mary we can steer ourselves on the journey and keep on the route towards Christ, especially in dark and stormy moments. The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with this experience because he had lived it in the first person. One night, while he was crossing the Sea of Galilee with the other disciples, he was caught in a storm. Their boat, at the mercy of the waves, was unable to sail on. Walking on the waters, Jesus came to them at that very moment and asked Peter to get out of the boat and walk towards him. Peter took a few steps on the waves but then felt himself sinking and cried out: "Lord, save me!". Jesus grasped him by the hand and he brought him to safety (cf. Mt 14: 24-33). This episode later proved to be a sign of the trial that Peter would have to pass through at the time of Jesus' Passion. When the Lord was arrested, he was afraid and denied him three times: he was overcome by the storm. But when his eyes met Christ's gaze, God's mercy renewed him and, causing him to dissolve in tears, raised him from his fall.

I have wished to recall the story of St Peter because I know that this place and your whole Church have a special link with the Prince of the Apostles. Tradition credits him with the first proclamation of the Gospel in this land, as your Bishop recalled at the outset. The Fisherman "caught" by Jesus cast his nets as far as here and today we give thanks for having been the object of this "miraculous catch" that has lasted 2,000 years, a catch that, exactly as St Peter wrote: "called [us] out of darkness into the marvellous light [of God]" (cf. 1 Pt 2: 9). In order to become fishers of men with Christ one first needs to be "caught" by him. St Peter is a witness of this reality, as also is St Paul, the great convert, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we shall be celebrating in a few days. As Successor of Peter and Bishop of the Church founded on the blood of these two outstanding Apostles, I have come to confirm you in the faith of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of man and of the world.

Peter's faith and Mary's faith are combined at this Shrine. Here one can draw from the double principle of the Christian experience: Marian and Petrine. Both, together, help us, dear brothers and sisters, to "start afresh from Christ", to renew your faith so that it may respond to the demands of our time. Mary teaches you to continue ceaselessly to listen to the Lord in the silence of prayer, to welcome his word with generous openness and the deep desire to offer yourselves, your actual lives, to God so that by the power of the Holy Spirit his eternal Word may "become flesh" once again today, in our history. Mary will help you to follow Jesus faithfully and to unite yourselves to him in the Sacrificial offering, to carry in your hearts the joy of the Resurrection and to live in constant docility to the Spirit of Pentecost. In a complimentary manner St Peter too will teach you to feel and believe with the Church, steadfast in the Catholic faith. He will bring you to have the taste and passion for unity, communion and joy in walking together with your Pastors. And, at the same time, you will participate in the missionary concern to share the Gospel with everyone, to take it to the ends of the earth.

"De finibus terrae": the name of this holy place is very beautiful and evocative because it re-echoes one of Jesus' last words to his disciples. Jutting out between Europe and the Mediterranean, between the West and the East, it reminds us that the Church has no boundaries, she is universal. And geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious frontiers are an invitation to the Church to evangelize with a view to "communion in diversity". The Church was born at Pentecost, she was born universal and her vocation is to speak all the world's languages. The Church exists, according to her original vocation and mission that were revealed to Abraham, to be a blessing to benefit all the peoples of the earth (cf. Gn 12: 1-3); to be, in the language of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1). The Church in Apulia possesses a marked vocation to be a bridge between peoples and cultures. This land and this Shrine are effectively an "outpost" in this sense and I was very pleased to note, both in your Bishop's letter and also in his words today, how this sensitivity is alive among you and perceived positively, with a genuine Gospel spirit.

Dear friends, we know well, because the Lord Jesus was very clear about this, that the effectiveness of witness is proportional to the intensity of love. It is pointless reaching out to the ends of the earth if we do not love one another first and help one another within the Christian community. The exhortation of the Apostle Paul, which we listened to in the Second Reading (Col 3: 12-17), is therefore not only fundamental for the life of your ecclesial family but also for your commitment to animate the social milieu. In fact, in a context that is tending increasingly to encourage individualism, the first service of the Church is that of educating in the social sense, in attention for one's neighbour and in solidarity and sharing. The Church, endowed by her Lord as she is with continuously renewed spiritual energy, can also exercise a positive influence at the social level because she fosters a renewed humanity and open and constructive human relationships, in respect and at the service, in the first place, of the least and of the weakest.

Here in the Salento, as in all of Southern Italy, ecclesial communities are places where the young generations can learn hope, not as a utopia but rather as a tenacious confidence in the power of goodness. Goodness wins through and although at times it can seem to have been defeated by oppression and cunning, in reality it continues to work in silence and discretion, bearing fruit in the long term. This is Christian social renewal, based on the transformation of consciences, on moral formation and on prayer; yes, because prayer gives the strength to believe and to fight for goodness even when humanly it would tempt one to be discouraged and to withdraw. The initiatives your Bishop mentioned at the start, those of the Marcelline Sisters and of the Trinitarian Fathers, as well as others that are being implemented in your territory, are eloquent signs of this typically ecclesial style of human and social promotion. At the same time, making the most of the opportunity of the Civil Authorities' presence, I am pleased to recall that the Christian community cannot and does not wish to encroach upon the legitimate and rightful domains of the Institutions; rather, it urges and supports them in their tasks and always offers to collaborate with them for the good of all, starting with the most unfavourable and difficult situations.

Lastly, my thoughts return to the Most Holy Virgin. From this Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae I would like to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to the various Marian Shrines in the Salento, true gems set in this peninsula, set like a bridge over the sea. The Marian piety of the populations was formed under the wonderful influence of the Basilian devotion to the Theotokos, a devotion cultivated later by the sons of St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis, and expressed in the most beautiful churches and simple holy chapels that are cared for and preserved as signs of the rich religious and civil heritage of your people. Let us therefore turn once again to you, Virgin Mary, who stood unwavering at the foot of your Son's Cross. You are a model of faith and hope in the power of truth and goodness. With the words of the ancient hymn we invoke you: "Break the fetters of the oppressed, / give light to the blind, / cast all evil from us, / beseech our every good". And, extending our gaze to the horizon where heaven and sea meet, we want to entrust to you the peoples who look out on the Mediterranean and those of the whole world, invoking development and peace for all: "Grant us peace in our day, / watch over our way, / grant that we may see your Son, / in the fullness of joy in heaven". Amen.