Benedict XVI's visit to Pavia  (May 2007)


"Passion for the Truth Truly Guided Him"


VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2007, Zenit.org - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily on Augustine's three stages of conversion. He delivered it April 22 during his pastoral visit to Pavia, Italy.

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PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)
EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

"Orti Borromaici" Esplanade, Pavia
Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, I met the diocesan Community of Vigevano and the heart of my Pastoral Visit was the Eucharistic concelebration in Piazza Ducale; today, I have the joy of visiting your Diocese and a culminating moment of our encounter is also here at Holy Mass.

I greet with affection my Brothers who are concelebrating with me: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, Bishop Giovanni Giudici, Pastor of your Diocese, Bishop emeritus Giovanni Volta, the retired Pastor, and the other Prelates of Lombardy.

I am grateful to the Government Representatives and local Administrations for their presence. I address my cordial greeting to the priests, deacons, Religious, leaders of lay associations, the young people, the sick and all the faithful, and I extend my thoughts to the entire population of this ancient and noble City, and of the Diocese.

During the Easter Season, the Church presents to us, Sunday after Sunday, some passages from the preaching with which, after Easter, the Apostles, particularly Peter, invited Israel to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen One, thereby founding the Church.

In today's reading, the Apostles stand before the Sanhedrin -- before that institution which, having sentenced Jesus to death, could not tolerate that this same Jesus was now beginning to be active again through the Apostles' preaching. They could not tolerate that his saving power was once more making itself felt and that his Name was attracting people who believed in him as the promised Redeemer.

They accused the Apostles. Their accusation is: "You want to make us responsible for that man's blood".

Peter, however, reacted to this accusation with a brief catechesis on the essence of Christian faith: "No, we do not want to make you responsible for his blood. The effect of the death and Resurrection of Jesus is quite different. God has exalted him as "'Head and Saviour' of all, and of you, too, his People of Israel". And where will this "Head" lead us? What does this "Saviour" bring?

He leads us, St Peter tells us, to conversion -- creates for us the leeway and opportunity to mend our ways and repent, begin again. And he offers us forgiveness for our sins: he introduces us into the proper relationship with God, hence, into the proper relationship of each individual with himself or herself and with others.

Peter's brief catechesis did not only apply to the Sanhedrin. It speaks to us all, for Jesus, the Risen One, is also alive today. And for all generations, for all men and women, he is the "Head" who shows us the way and the "Saviour" who straightens out our lives.

The two terms: "conversion" and "forgiveness of sins", which correspond to the titles of Christ "Head", archegòs in Greek, and "Saviour", are the key words of Peter's catechesis, words intended to move our hearts too, here and now. And what do they mean?

The path we must take -- the path that Jesus points out to us -- is called "conversion". But what is it? What must we do? In every life conversion has its own form, because every human being is something new and no one is merely a copy of another.

But in the course of history, the Lord has sent us models of conversion to whom we can look to find guidance. We could thus look at Peter himself to whom the Lord said at the Last Supper: "[W]hen you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22: 32).

We could look at Paul as a great convert. The City of Pavia speaks of one of the greatest converts in the history of the Church: St Aurelius Augustine. He died on 28 August in 430 in the port town of Hippo, in Africa, at that time surrounded and besieged by the Vandals.

After the considerable turmoil of a turbulent history, the King of the Longobards acquired Augustine's remains for the City of Pavia so that today they belong to this City in a special way, and, in it and from it, have something special to say to all of us, to humanity, but to all of us here in particular.

In his book, Confessions, Augustine touchingly described the development of his conversion which achieved its goal with Baptism, administered to him by Bishop Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan. Readers of his Confessions can share in the journey that Augustine had to make in a long inner struggle to receive at last, at the baptismal font on the night before Easter 387, the Sacrament which marked the great turning point in his life.

A careful examination of the course of St Augustine's life enables one to perceive that his conversion was not an event of a single moment but, precisely, a journey. And one can see that this journey did not end at the baptismal font.

Just as prior to his baptism Augustine's life was a journey of conversion, after it too, although differently, his life continued to be a journey of conversion -- until his last illness, when he had the penitential Psalms hung on the walls so that he might have them always before his eyes, and when he excluded himself from receiving the Eucharist in order to go back once again over the path of his repentance and receive salvation from Christ's hands as a gift of God's mercy.

Thus, we can rightly speak of Augustine's "conversions", which actually consisted of one important conversion in his quest for the Face of Christ and then in the journeying on with him.

I would like to mention briefly three important landmarks in this process of conversion, three "conversions".

The first fundamental conversion was the inner march towards Christianity, towards the "yes" of the faith and of Baptism. What was the essential aspect of this journey?

On the one hand, Augustine was a son of his time, deeply conditioned by the customs and passions prevalent then as well as by all the questions and problems that beset any young man. He lived like all the others, yet with a difference: he continued to be a person constantly seeking. He was never satisfied with life as it presented itself and as so many people lived it.

The question of the truth tormented him ceaselessly. He longed to discover truth. He wanted to succeed in knowing what man is; where we ourselves come from, where we are going and how we can find true life.

He desired to find the life that was right and not merely to live blindly, without meaning or purpose.

Passion for truth is the true key phrase of his life. Passion for the truth truly guided him.

There is a further peculiarity: anything that did not bear Christ's Name did not suffice for him. Love for this Name, he tells us, he had tasted from his mother's milk (cf. Confessions, 3, 4, 8). And he always believed -- sometimes rather vaguely, at other times, more clearly -- that God exists and takes care of us (cf. Confessions, 6, 5, 8).

But to truly know this God and to become really familiar with this Jesus Christ and reach the point of saying "yes" to him with all its consequences -- this was the great interior struggle of his youthful years.

St Augustine tells us that through Platonic philosophy he learned and recognized that "in the beginning was the Word" -- the Logos, creative reason. But philosophy, which showed him that the beginning of all things was creative reason, did not show him any path on which to reach it; this Logos remained remote and intangible.

Only through faith in the Church did he later find the second essential truth: the Word, the Logos, was made flesh.

Thus, he touches us and we touch him. The humility of God's Incarnation -- this is the important step -- must be equalled by the humility of our faith, which lays down its self-important pride and bows upon entering the community of Christ's Body; which lives with the Church and through her alone can enter into concrete and bodily communion with the living God.

I do not have to say how deeply all this concerns us: to remain seekers; to refuse to be satisfied with what everyone else says and does; to keep our gaze fixed on the eternal God and on Jesus Christ; to learn the humility of faith in the corporeal Church of Jesus Christ, of the Logos Incarnate.

Augustine described his second conversion at the end of the 10th book of his Confessions with the words: "Terrified by my sins and the pile of my misery, I had racked my heart and had meditated, taking flight to live in solitude. But you forbade me and comforted me, saying: "That is why Christ died for all, so that those who live should not live for themselves, but for him who died for them' (2 Corinthians 5:15)"; Confessions, 10, 43, 70).

What had happened? After his baptism, Augustine had decided to return to Africa and with some of his friends had founded a small monastery there. His life was then to be totally dedicated to conversation with God and reflection on and contemplation of the beauty and truth of his Word.

Thus, he spent three happy years in which he believed he had achieved the goal of his life; in that period, a series of valuable philosophical and theological works came into being.

In 391, four years after his baptism, he went to the port town of Hippo to meet a friend whom he desired to win over for his monastery. But he was recognized at the Sunday liturgy in the cathedral in which he took part.

It was not by chance that the Bishop of the city, a man of Greek origin who was not fluent in Latin and found preaching rather a struggle, said in his homily that he was hoping to find a priest to whom he could entrust the task of preaching.

People instantly grabbed hold of Augustine and forced him forward to be ordained a priest to serve the city.

Immediately after his forced ordination, Augustine wrote to Bishop Valerius: "I was constrained ... to accept second place at the helm, when as yet I knew not how to handle an oar. ... And from this derived the tears which some of my brethren perceived me shedding in the city at the time of my ordination" (cf. Letter 21, 1ff.).

Augustine's beautiful dream of a contemplative life had vanished. As a result, his life had fundamentally changed. He could now no longer dedicate himself solely to meditation in solitude. He had to live with Christ for everyone. He had to express his sublime knowledge and thoughts in the thoughts and language of the simple people in his city. The great philosophical work of an entire lifetime, of which he had dreamed, was to remain unwritten.

Instead, however, we have been given something far more precious: the Gospel translated into the language of everyday life and of his sufferings.

These were now part of his daily life, which he described as the following: "reprimanding the undisciplined, comforting the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, refuting opponents ... encouraging the negligent, soothing the quarrelsome, helping the needy, liberating the oppressed, expressing approval to the good, tolerating the wicked and loving all" (Sermon 340, 3).

"Continuously preaching, arguing, rebuking, building God's house, having to manage for everyone -- who would not shrink from such a heavy burden?" (Sermon 339, 4).

This was the second conversion which this man, struggling and suffering, was constantly obliged to make: to be available to everyone, time and again, and not for his own perfection; time and again, to lay down his life with Christ so that others might find him, true Life.

Further, there was a third, decisive phase in the journey of conversion of St Augustine. After his Ordination to the priesthood he had requested a vacation period to study the Sacred Scriptures in greater detail.

His first series of homilies, after this pause for reflection, were on the Sermon on the Mount; he explained the way to an upright life, "the perfect life", pointed out by Christ in a new way. He presented it as a pilgrimage to the holy mountain of the Word of God. In these homilies it is possible to further perceive all the enthusiasm of faith newly discovered and lived; his firm conviction that the baptized, in living totally in accordance with Christ's message, can precisely be "perfect" in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount.

Approximately 20 years later, Augustine wrote a book called the Retractations, in which he critically reviewed all the works he had thus far written, adding corrections wherever he had in the meantime learned something new.

With regard to the ideal of perfection in his homilies on the Sermon on the Mount, he noted: "In the meantime, I have understood that one alone is truly perfect and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are totally fulfilled in one alone: Jesus Christ himself.

"The whole Church, on the other hand -- all of us, including the Apostles -- must pray every day: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (cf. Retract. I 19, 1-3).

Augustine had learned a further degree of humility -- not only the humility of integrating his great thought into the humble faith of the Church, not only the humility of translating his great knowledge into the simplicity of announcement, but also the humility of recognizing that he himself and the entire pilgrim Church needed and continually need the merciful goodness of a God who forgives every day.

And we, he added, liken ourselves to Christ, the only Perfect One, to the greatest possible extent when we become, like him, people of mercy.

Let us now thank God for the great light that shines out from St Augustine's wisdom and humility and pray the Lord to give to us all, day after day, the conversion we need, and thus lead us toward true life. Amen.

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Papal Address at the University of Pavia

"What the Person Needs Is Unity and Synthesis"

University's Theresian Courtyard, Pavia
Sunday, 22 April 2007

Rector Magnificent,
Distinguished Professors,
Dear Students,

Although it is brief, my Pastoral Visit to Pavia could not leave out a stop at this University, which has been a hallmark of your City for centuries.

I am therefore glad to find myself among you for this encounter, to which I attribute special importance since I also come from the academic world.

I greet with cordial respect the professors, and in the first place, Prof. Angiolino Stella, whom I thank for his courteous words. I greet the students, especially the young man who expressed the sentiments of the other university students. He reassured me of your courage in dedication to the truth, of your courage in seeking beyond the limits of the known and not surrendering to the weakness of reason. And I am very grateful to him for these words.

I also extend my good wishes to all the members of your academic community who were prevented from being present here today.

Your University is one of the oldest and most distinguished of the Italian Universities and -- I repeat the words of the Rector Magnificent -- among the teachers who have honoured it are figures such as Alessandro Volta, Camillo Golgi and Carlo Forlanini.

I am also eager to recall that teachers and students marked by an eminent spiritual stature have passed through your Athenaeum. They were: Michele Ghislieri, who later became Pope St Pius V, St Charles Borromeo, St Alessandro Sauli, St Riccardo Pampuri, St Gianna Beretta Molla, Bl. Contardo Ferrini and the Servant of God Teresio Olivelli.

Dear friends, every university has an inherent community vocation: indeed, it is, precisely, a universitas, a community of teachers and students committed to seeking the truth and to acquiring superior cultural and professional skills.

The centrality of the person and the community dimension are two co-essential poles for an effective structuring of the universitas studiorum.

Every university must always preserve the traits of a study centre "within man's reach", where the student is preserved from anonymity and can cultivate a fertile dialogue with his teachers from which he draws an incentive for his cultural and human growth.

From this structure derive certain applications that are connected to one another. First of all, it is certain that only by putting the person at the centre and making the most of dialogue and interpersonal relations can the specializing fragmentation of disciplines be overcome and the unitive perspective of knowledge be recovered.

Naturally, and also rightly, the disciplines tend to specialization, while what the person needs is unity and synthesis.

Secondly, it is fundamentally important that the commitment to scientific research be open to the existential question of meaning for the person's life itself. Research seeks knowledge, whereas the person also needs wisdom, that knowledge, as it were, which is expressed in the "knowing-living".

In the third place, only in appreciating the person and interpersonal relationships can the didactic relationship become an educational relationship, a process of human development. Indeed, the structure gives priority to communication while people aspire to sharing.

I know that this attention to the person, his integral experience of life and his aspiration to communion are very present in the pastoral action of the Church of Pavia in the field of culture. This is witnessed to by the work of University Colleges of Christian inspiration.

Among these, I too would like to recall the Collegio Borromeo, desired by St Charles Borromeo with Pope Pius IV's Bull of foundation, and the Collegio Santa Caterina, founded by the Diocese of Pavia to comply with the wishes of the Servant of God Paul VI, with a crucial contribution from the Holy See.

In this sense, the work of the parishes and ecclesial movements is also important, especially that of the Diocesan University Centre and the Italian Catholic University Students' Association (FUCI).

The purpose of their activity is to welcome the person in his totality, to propose harmonious processes of human, cultural and Christian formation, and to provide spaces for sharing, discussion and communion.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask both students and teachers not to feel that they are merely the object of pastoral attention but to participate actively and to make their contribution to the cultural project of Christian inspiration which the Church promotes in Italy and in Europe.

In meeting you, dear friends, the thought of Augustine, Co-Patron of this University together with St Catherine of Alexandria, springs spontaneously to mind. Augustine's existential and intellectual development witnesses to the fertile interaction between faith and culture.

St Augustine was a man driven by a tireless desire to find the truth, to find out what life is, to know how to live, to know man. And precisely because of his passion for the human being, he necessarily sought God, because it is only in the light of God that the greatness of the human being and the beauty of the adventure of being human can fully appear.

At first, this God appeared very remote to him. Then Augustine found him: this great and inaccessible God made himself close, one of us. The great God is our God, he is a God with a human face. Thus, his faith in Christ did not have its ultimate end in his philosophy or in his intellectual daring, but on the contrary, impelled him further to seek the depths of the human being and to help others to live well, to find life, the art of living.

This was his philosophy: to know how to live with all the reason and all the depths of our thought, of our will, and to allow ourselves to be guided on the path of truth, which is a path of courage, humility and permanent purification.

Faith in Christ brought all Augustine's seeking to fulfilment, but fulfilment in the sense that he always remained on the way. Indeed, he tells us: even in eternity our seeking will not be completed, it will be an eternal adventure, the discovery of new greatness, new beauty.

He interpreted the words of the Psalm, "Seek his face continually", and said: this is true for eternity; and the beauty of eternity is that it is not a static reality but immense progress in the immense beauty of God.

Thus, he could discover God as the founding reason, but also as love which embraces us, guides us and gives meaning to history and to our personal life.

This morning I had the opportunity to say that this love for Christ shaped his personal commitment. From a life patterned on seeking, he moved on to a life given totally to Christ and thus to a life for others.

He discovered -- this was his second conversion -- that being converted to Christ means not living for oneself but truly being at the service of all.

May St Augustine be for us and also for the academic world a model of dialogue between reason and faith, a model of a broad dialogue which alone can seek truth, hence, also peace.

As my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II commented in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio: "The Bishop of Hippo succeeded in producing the first great synthesis of philosophy and theology, embracing currents of thought both Greek and Latin. In him too the great unity of knowledge, grounded in the thought of the Bible, was both confirmed and sustained by a depth of speculative thinking" (n. 40).

I therefore invoke the intercession of St Augustine, so that the University of Pavia may always be distinguished by special attention to the individual, by an accentuated community dimension in scientific research and by a fruitful dialogue between faith and culture.

I thank you for your presence and as I wish you every good for your studies, I impart to you all my Blessing, which I extend to your relatives and loved ones.

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Papal Homily at Augustine's Tomb
"Serving Christ Is First of All a Question of Love"

PAVIA, Italy, MAY 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's April 22 homily at the basilica which houses St. Augustine's tomb.

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PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)
CELEBRATION OF VESPERS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia
Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this final event, my Visit to Pavia acquires the form of a pilgrimage. This is the form in which I had conceived of it from the outset, desiring to come here to venerate the mortal remains of St Augustine, to express both the homage of the whole Catholic Church to one of her greatest "fathers" and my personal devotion and gratitude to the one who played such an important part in my life as a theologian and a Pastor, but, I would say, even more as a man and a priest.

I renew with affection my greeting to Bishop Giovanni Giudici and I offer a special greeting to Fr Robert Francis Prevost, Prior General of the Augustinians, to the Father Provincial and to the entire Augustinian community. I greet you all with joy, dear priests, men and women religious, consecrated lay people and seminarians.

Providence has deigned that my journey acquire the character of a true and proper Pastoral Visit, and therefore, in this pause for prayer here at the tomb of the Doctor gratiae, I would like to identify a significant message for the Church's progress. This message comes to us from the encounter of the Word of God and the personal experience of the great Bishop of Hippo.

We have listened to the short biblical Reading for Second Vespers of the Third Sunday of Easter (Heb 10:12-14). The Letter to the Hebrews has set us before Christ, the eternal High Priest, exalted to the Father's glory after offering himself as the one perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant in which the work of Redemption was accomplished.

St Augustine fixed his gaze on this mystery and in it he found the Truth he was so ardently seeking. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Sacrificed and Risen Lamb, is the Face of God-Love for every human being on his journey along the paths of time towards eternity.

The Apostle John writes in a passage that can be considered parallel to the one just proclaimed in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4:10). Here is the heart of the Gospel, the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this love opened Augustine's eyes and led him to encounter the "beauty so old and so new" (Confessions, X, 27) in which alone the human heart finds peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, here, in front of St Augustine's tomb, I would like in spirit to present anew to the Church and to the world my first Encyclical, which contains precisely this central message of the Gospel: Deus caritas est, God is love (cf. I Jn 4:8,16). This Encyclical, especially Part One, is deeply indebted to the thought of St Augustine, who was in love with the Love of God and sang of it, meditated upon it, preached it in all his writings and above all witnessed to it in his pastoral ministry.

Following in the wake of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and of my venerable Predecessors John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, I am convinced that humanity today stands in need of this essential message, incarnate in Jesus Christ: God is love. Everything must start from here and everything must lead to here, every pastoral action, every theological treatise.

As St Paul said, "If I ... have not love I gain nothing" (cf. I Cor 13:3). All charisms lose their meaning and value without love, thanks to which instead, all compete to build the Mystical Body of Christ.

Here then is the message that still today St Augustine repeats to the whole Church and in particular, to this diocesan Community which preserves his relics with such veneration. Love is the soul of the Church's life and of her pastoral action. We heard it this morning in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter: "Do you love me?... Tend my sheep" (cf. Jn 21:5-17).

Only those who live a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the way of following Christ. At the school of St Augustine, I repeat this truth for you as Bishop of Rome, while as a Christian I welcome it with you with ever new joy.

Serving Christ is first of all a question of love. Dear brothers and sisters, your membership in the Church and your apostolate always shine forth through freedom from any individual interest and through adherence without reserve to Christ's love.

The young, in particular, need to receive the proclamation of freedom and joy whose secret lies in Christ. He is the truest response to the expectations of their hearts, restless because of the many questions they bear within them.

Only in him, the Word spoken for us by the Father, is found that combination of truth and love which contains the full meaning of life. Augustine lived in the first person and explored to their depths the questions that man carries in his heart, and investigated his capacity to open himself to the infinity of God.

In Augustine's footsteps, may you also be a Church that candidly proclaims the "glad tidings" of Christ, his proposal of life, his message of reconciliation and forgiveness.

I have seen that your first pastoral goal is to lead people to Christian maturity. I appreciate this priority given to personal formation because the Church is not a mere organization of group events or, on the contrary, the sum of individuals who live a private religiosity. The Church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and commit themselves to live in the world the commandment of love that he bequeathed to us.

Thus, she is a community where one is taught to love, and this education happens not despite but through the events of life. This is how it was for Peter, for Augustine and for all the saints. So it is for us.

Personal maturation, enlivened by ecclesial charity, also makes it possible to grow in community discernment, that is, in the ability to read and interpret the present time in the light of the Gospel in order to respond to the Lord's call. I encourage you to progress in your personal and communal witness to active love.

The service of charity, which you correctly conceive of as always linked to the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments, calls you and at the same time drives you to be attentive to the material and spiritual needs of your brothers and sisters.

I encourage you to pursue the "high standard" of Christian living which finds in charity the bond of perfection and which must also be expressed in a lifestyle inspired by the Gospel, inevitably against the tide by the world's standards but which must always be witnessed to with humility, respect and cordiality.

Dear brothers and sisters, it was a gift to me, truly a gift, to share with you this time at St Augustine's tomb. Your presence has given my pilgrimage a more concrete sense of Church. Let us start out from here bearing in our hearts the joy of being disciples of Love.

May the Virgin Mary, to whose motherly protection I entrust each one of you and your loved ones, accompany us always, while with deep affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.

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As he left the Basilica, the Pope greeted the faithful of Pavia, including a large number of children who were waiting for him outside:

Dear Children,

In taking leave of this marvellous City of Pavia, it is a great joy for me to be able to see the children, boys and girls and young people. You are especially close to the Lord. His love is especially for you.

Let us move forward in love for the Lord! Pray for me, and I will pray for you. Good-bye!

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Papal Address at Pavia Hospital
"Technology and Human Love Should Always Go Together"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's April 22 address during his visit to the San Matteo Polyclinic in Pavia, Italy.

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PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)

VISIT TO THE "SAN MATTEO" POLYCLINIC IN PAVIA

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE DIRECTORS, MEDICAL STAFF, THE SICK AND THEIR RELATIVES

"San Matteo" Polyclinic, Pavia
Sunday, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The programme for my Pastoral Visit to Pavia could not have omitted a stop at the San Matteo Polyclinic to meet you, dear sick people, who come not only from the Province of Pavia but also from the whole of Italy.

I express my personal closeness and solidarity to each one of you as I also embrace in spirit the sick, the suffering, people in difficulty in your Diocese and all those who take loving care of them. I would like to reach out to you all with a word of encouragement and hope.

I address a respectful greeting to Mr Alberto Guglielmo, President of the Polyclinic, and I thank him for his cordial words that he has just addressed to me. My gratitude extends to the doctors, the nurses and all the personnel who work here daily.

I offer grateful thoughts to the Camillian Fathers who every day, with lively pastoral zeal, bring to the sick the comfort of the faith, as well as to the Sisters of Providence involved in generous service in keeping with the charism of St Luigi Scrosoppi, their Founder.

I express heartfelt thanks to the representative of the sick [who spoke prior to the Pope's Address] and I think with affection of their relatives who share moments of trepidation and trustful expectation with their loved ones.

A hospital is a place which in a certain way we might call "holy", where one experiences not only the frailty of human nature but also the enormous potential and resources of human ingenuity and technology at the service of life.

Human life! However often it is explored, this gift always remains a mystery.

I am aware that this hospital structure, your "San Matteo" Polyclinic, is well known in this City and in the rest of Italy, in particular for its pioneering surgery on several occasions. Here, you seek to alleviate suffering in the attempt to restore the person to complete health and this often happens, partly thanks to modern scientific discoveries; and here, truly comforting results are obtained.

I strongly hope that the necessary scientific and technological progress will constantly go hand in hand with the awareness that together with the good of the sick person, one is promoting those fundamental values, such as the respect for and defence of life in all its stages, on which the authentically human quality of coexistence depends.

Being here with you, it comes naturally to me to think of Jesus, who in the course of his earthly existence always showed special attention to the suffering, healing them and giving them the possibility of returning to a life of family and social relations which illness had compromised.

I am also thinking of the first Christian community, where, as we read in these days in the Acts of the Apostles, many cases of healing and miracles accompanied the Apostles' preaching.

The Church, following the example of her Lord, always expresses special preference for the suffering and, as the President said, sees Christ himself in the suffering and does not cease to offer to the sick the necessary technical assistance and human love, knowing that she is called to express Christ's love and concern for them and for those who care for them.

Technical progress, technology and human love should always go together!

Moreover, Jesus' words, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40;45), resonate with special timeliness in this place. In every person stricken with illness it is Jesus himself who waits for our love.

Suffering is of course repugnant to the human spirit; yet, it is true that when it is accepted with love and compassion and illumined by faith, it becomes a precious opportunity that mysteriously unites one to Christ the Redeemer, the Man of sorrows who on the Cross took upon himself human suffering and death.

With the sacrifice of his life, he redeemed human suffering and made it the fundamental means of salvation.

Dear sick people, entrust to the Lord the hardships and sorrows that you have to face and in his plan they will become a means of purification and redemption for the whole world.

Dear friends, I assure each and every one of you of my remembrance in prayer and, as I invoke Mary Most Holy, Salus infirmorum -- Health of the Sick -- so that she may protect you and your families, the directors, the doctors and the whole community of the Polyclinic, I impart to you all with affection a special Apostolic Blessing.

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